f^t^J s. STILL WATERS, VOL. II. Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive in 2010 witii funding from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign http://www.archive.org/details/stillwaters02paul STILL WATERS BY THE AUTHOR OF 'DOROTHY ' Their strength is to sit still. ' Behold ! we know not anything ; I can but trust that good shall fall At last— far off— at last, to all, And every winter change to spring. In Memoriam . IN TWO VOLUMES VOL. II. LOXDON JOHX W. PARKER AND SON WEST STRAND 1857 ITke Author reserves the right of Traitslation} LONDON : SAVILL AND EDWAEDS, PEINTEES, CHANDOS STKEET. ^2 3-- ■.••2. STILL WATEES, CHAPTER I. heart of grace, that, like the lowly flowers, Bendest beneath the storms, but does not break, Whom in thy tears kind thoughts do not forsake, As blessed odours live on thunder-showers : WTiether the sim shines forth, or tempest lowers, Thou art unshaken — in thy utmost need. While iron pride is shattered like a reed. Thy winged hopes fly onward with the hom's. r, Tennyson. THERE Tvas a tacit agreement on the part of the brother and sisters, when they met at the breakfast- table ou the following morn- ing, to put aside the several explanations of the foregoing evening as completely as though they had never been. Ruth was in good spirits ; for, although llr. Ball^s sanguine view of her - mother^s state had failed to reassure her, the decided improvement this morning went far to allay her uneasiness. ^ !Mamma seems,' she told David, ^ more like VOL. II. B 2 STILL WATERS. herself than she has been for long — quite vigorous and cheerful/ David expressed his satisfaction, and felt that there could be no better opportunity for broaching the subject of their visit to Went- worth Lodge. He chose to assume that the invitation must be accepted, while Isabel raised her eyes with a timid and deprecating glance towards her sister. But it appeared that her pertui'bation might have been spared, for Kuth quietly assented, perhaps because she felt that opposition would only have the effect of de- stroying IsabeFs pleasure, without inducing her to relinquish the visit. Besides, she considered that Evelyn Gascoigne would be more on his guard under Lady Marians roof than at Dyne Court ; and that his attentions would become less marked in general society, if they were only due to his desire to carry on an idle flirta- tion. And so Isabel's eyes might be opened; but here Buth checked herself, unwilling to dwell on the cruel bitterness of such an awakening. Little as she desired Evelyn Gas- coigne to be her brother-in-law, she felt that Isabel's happiness was so deeply involved, that she dared not contemplate the wreck of all her hopes. STILL WATERS. 3 Mrs. Lennox was pleased with the invitation, for this unsought introduction to the county society gratified her maternal pride. ' I never saw Lady ^laria myself/ she said ; ' but I always heard that she is particularly pleasant with young people ; and I imagine the Lodge keeps up the reputation it had in old ]Mr. Wentworth's time, of being better monte than any house in the county. It will be a pleasant variety for David. The invitation is only to him and Isabel.^ ^ I am not afironted/ Ruth answered, with a smile. ' I don't suppose that Lady Maria is aware of my existence.^ ^I did not think of being afironted/ said Mrs. Lennox ; ' but it does vex me to think how completely you are shut out from the amusement and society which you ought to enjoy.' ' I should not enjoy them if they came in my way/ said Ruth, with the playful decision with which she ever silenced such regrets; ' and so it is well for me that I have home duties. But I project a dissipation for the afternoon, in the shape of a drive with Clara, if you can really spare me.' Mrs. Lennox readily assented ; and she would B % 4 STILL WATERS. not suffer Isabel to stay at home in her sister^s place, as Isabel was urgent to be allowed to do, since she was desirous to prove her resolution in foregoing a whole afternoon of Captain Gas- coigne^s society. And Ruth was glad that her intention was overruled, since her motive in joining the party was to see Evelyn and her sister together. It did not seem, however, that she was to have the opportunity for personal obseiTations, since a quiet strife between the two gentle- men, as to who should occupy the fourth place inside the barouche, ended in David's favour; and Captain Gascoigne had not much intercourse with his companions from his ele- vated seat on the box. Isabel leaned back, rather silent and abstracted ; but Clara was full of animation, and made much of Ruth, who had latterly been in such close attendance on her mother, that her release for the after- noon was quite an event. Ruth was desired to choose the object of their drive, and she decided in favour of Beverly Grange. jNtany a long summer's holi- day had been spent there in former days ; and now that the distance exceeded her powers of walking, she was glad to take this opportunity STILL WATERS. 5 of renewing old associations. The carriage set them down at the entrance to the long green lane to which Sir John^s coachman did not choose to trust the springs of his barouche^ although tradition said that it had once been considered passable for the Beverly coach and six. And they were all well pleased to walk, although David thought that his fraternal affection was put to a rather severe test, when Clara insisted that he should give his arm to Ruth!, while she tripped daintily by their side. From her cousin she neither asked nor expected help, and he stopped so often to strip the hazel bushes of their ripe clusters, that he and Isabel were soon left behind. ^ Do you remember, David,' said Ruth, ' our coming home along this lane so tired and hungry, because you had insisted on our start- ing without provisions, in order that we might dine on the fish you were to catch in the moat V ' Which proved to be three minnows and a gudgeon/ said David, laughing ; ' and we had no means of cooking theai, for the farm people had locked up the house, and all turned out to make hay. I wanted to break into the dairy. 6 STILL WATERS. but^ as usual^ your conscience and Clinton^s were too mighty for me/ ^ Was Mr. Clinton^s conscience so tender V said Clara^ innocently ; and she really was -un- conscious, probably because her own memory in such matters was not particularly retentive, how that allusion made Ruth inwardly shrink and shiver. Yet she gave no outward sign of emotion, save a slight compression of the firm, pale lips, and she had steadied the hand which rested on her brother^s arm before he discovered how it trembled in his grasp. David was in love, and therefore he could not wish one word unsaid which fell from Clara^s lips; yet he was conscious that the remark jarred upon him, and he said quickly, ^ Jasper Clinton was thoroughly true-hearted, and I often find, on looking back, that I owe to him the few fixed principles I have.^ ' I don^t quite understand,^ said Clara, lightly, ^ whether ^Ir. Clinton was a warning or an example ; if the latter, I am afraid you must be a very unprincipled character.^ Ruth^s head was turned away, or Clara might have been che«?ked by the expression of her face ; as it was, she was startled by the tone of tremulous earnestness in which she replied — STILL WATERS. 7 ^ Oh Clara ! cannot you spare the past, in memory of those short, bright days we must know no more V ^1 did not think — I did not mean to yex you/ replied Clara. *" Now show that you for- give me by telling more about those happy days ; of all the scrapes which Mr. Lennox got into, and Mr. Clinton helped him out of.^ In Da^id^s opinion the ready grace of the apology atoned for the thoughtlessness which had rendered it necessary, and he willingly- supplied the reminiscences which from Ruth^s lips were few and scanty. He pointed out the various attractions which the place possessed for boys; the rookery, the ruined keep, and the green and slimy moat. Captain Gascoigne and Isabel sauntered on, talking not of the past, but of the future. Isabel had collected a store of traditions concerning the ruins which she would have liked to impart to another companion, but she had discovered that Evelyn took little interest in such re- searches ; and, besides, she was best pleased to hear, and not to speak, when he was by. Evelyn had a taste for landscape gardening, and he was struck by the capabilities of the Grange for becomincf once more a manor-house. 8 STILL WATERS. ' I should repair the keep/ lie said^ ' though I don't promise to inhabit it, for it may be diffi- cult to dislodge the rats^ the bats, and the owls. But the farm, with its picturesque out-buildings, might easily be converted into a dwelling- house, and you may trace the old approach by that irregular line of Spanish chestnuts stretching over the two fields. The turf must be mown and levelled, and the moat drained.' ' Oh ! you will not fill in the moat,' said Isabel, pleadingly. 'You have a sentiment for the moat? Well, then, we must reserve that improvement until the asre of rheumatism succeeds to that of romance. And where will you put the flower- garden ?' Isabel did not know, she said ; it was one of those dubious speeches which destroyed her self-possession, making her heart flutter and her cheek crimson, while she wondered what Cap- tain Gascoigne meant, and what Ruth would think if she had heard him. For he had begun by saying that he should be content to settle in such a place as Beverly Grange, old and picturesque as it was, and with scope for im- provements which would give him plenty of occupation. And in these improvements he STILL WATERS. 9 persisted in giving her an interest and a voice, almost implying by that pronoun ^ we^ that they must act together. On their return, Captain Gascoigne was in- side the carriage, and as he and Isabel sat side by side, and opposite to Ruth, she could ob- serve them to her heart's content, or discontent. For she could not fail to observe the contrast between the two faces; that of Isabel was so transparent in its varying emotions, whether downcast in bashful happiness, or, forgetting herself and her embarrassment, she turned her full earnest gaze towards Evelyn, in eager attention to all which fell from his lips. Evelyn's countenance expressed intellect, sense, quickness of perception, but beyond this, it was a riddle which Ruth could not read. And there was something premature in his tone of worldly wisdom, and his cool, well-balanced judgments, while there was little of the frank gaiety of youth in the smile so often on his lips. On the whole, the prejudice with which Isabel accused her sister of regarding Captain Gascoigne, was not dissipated during the drive home from Beverly Grange. David declared that it was too fine to go into the house, and he made Isabel go down 10 STILL WATERS. to the river side uitli liim, wliile Ruth went straight to her mother^s room. ' You are home early,^ said Mrs. Leunox ; and Ruth was grieved by the nervous quickness of her voice. ' Xot earlier than I intended, mamma ; and I am afraid that I have been too long away. You have been tiring yourself, I am sure.^ ^ I am rather tired, dear. Dr. Berkeley paid me a long visit.^ ' And you were not at all fit to see any one/ said Ruth, reproachfully ; ' the Doctor ought to have known better, and so I shall tell him.' ' Ah; Ruth !' said her mother, and there she paused. ^ Well, mamma, you need not think me unjust to the Doctor. I know that he does not mean to be inconsiderate, but he really does abuse the privilege of a scholar and a single man in his absence of mind. However, we will not talk of him now, or of anything else, for you ought to rest.' ' I cannot rest,' said Mrs. Lennox, ' until I have told the purport of the Doctor's visit; unless you can guess, Ruth, how nearly it con- cerns yourself.' STILL WATERS. II The colour flew into Eutli's face, but her answer betrayed her annoyance rather than embarrassment. ' Oh mamma ! I have once or twice had a horrible suspicion that he had something in his head^ but I always put it aside as simply impossible. He must know, must feel, how impossible it is that he should ever be more than a friend.^ ' He has felt it, Ruth, and that conviction has sealed his lips so long, and now restrains him from pleading his own cause. I said something of my confidence that his fr'iendship and advice would be your chief stay when I am gone, and that drew forth the confession that he had loved, and loved hopelessly, for years.' ' Hopelessly,^ repeated Ruth ; ' and surely, mamma, you did not bid him hope V [ At least I thought that he need not despair until he heard his fate from yonr own lips. But there is no need to decide hastily.-' ^ No time could alter my decision. Such love as we may carry from the cradle to the grave is yom's, dearest mother, and I shall know no other.^ ' So others have said, dear, who yet have learned to love and be loved most intensely. 13 STILL WATERS. And surely Dr. Berkeley's earnest, single- hearted affection merits some return/ ^ One cannot reason about these things/ said Ruth, with a slight shade of impatience in her voice, then melting into tender reproach. ^And, oh mamma, what have I done, that you should wish to drive me from you V ' Nothing shall part us but death, my sweet one,' said her mother, folding her in her arms ; ' and it is the thought of that parting which makes death bitter. David and Isabel have youth and spirits to cope with all trials, and the strong bond of their mutual love to lighten them, but you are isolated by your devotion to me, and your nerves are shaken and your spirits crushed/ ' But not by the little T have been able to do for you, mamma. Indeed, that has been my great stay when other things pressed heavily.' ' Ah, Ruth !' said Mrs. Lennox, sadly, ' do you still suffer that young and fleeting fancy to dwell in your recollection V ' Despise me, if you will,' said Ruth, hiding her face in an agony of shame ; ' yet not so bit- terly as I despise myself. The suspense makes it so hard to forget. I should be satisfied to STILL WATERS. I3 hear but once of his welfare^ or to know that one day his honour will be made clear to others as to me/ 'And even then, Ruth, do you think of the change these years must have wrought ? In the roving life of toil and hardships which must be Jasper^s lot, it is little likely that early associations retain their hold on his memory/ ' He has nothing to remember ; at least/ E/Uth added, blushing, ' he confided in me as a brother might; and, if he has not forgotten our place and name, he still thinks of me as a sister/ 'And, as a brother, therefore, he would re- joice to know that there is one at hand to care for you when I am gone ; to devote to you the energies of a strong and tender heart. Jasper would be the first to urge that such love ought not to be lightly rejected/ Euth had borne much, but to have it sup- posed that Jasper would plead the cause of another was beyond her powers of endurance. Cowering down, so as to escape the light touch of her mother's fingers, which seemed to weigh like lead on her beating temples, she said, in a low, half stifled voice, ' AA'hat Jasper might 14 STILL WATEKS. urffe we do not know — w^e never shall know, igl Enough to tell me what you wish/ ' Dear child/ said Mrs. Lennox, tenderly, ' I should be the last to urge you to take any step from which you recoil. Only do not decide hastily. Dr. Berkeley will wait with patience, as he has waited for years. And may I not tell him this much, that, though you cannot now requite his love, the time may come V ' If you will, mamma ; but he must not press it. He must not speak to me now — I could not bear it.' And Ruth knew not how much the words so reluctantly wrung from her implied, until the pledge was sealed by her mother's long, grateful kiss. Then her heart sank, but it was too late to draw back, and she felt that no sacrifice was too great which had chased the expression of disquietude from those pinched and sharpened features. At that moment Ruth could not think of her own future, nor of anything but the foreboding which found an echo in her heart, and she asked anxiously, ' Mamma, do you feel worse to-night V ^Much better, dear, since that point is STILL WATERS. 1 5 settled ; but I must not talk any more to- night, and you had better go down to tea before Isabel comes to seek you/ Ruth left the room ; but she did not go down at once, for she wished to be alone, to try and collect her thoughts. But she could not think — she could scarcely feel ; there was a dull, be^vildered sense of pain, and that was all. Her mother^s last words had failed to re- assure her, and though there was no definite cause for the belief, she felt certain that before the pale moon, now rising in the twilight sky, had waned and waxed again, her long watches by her mother's bedside would be ended — the wasting sickness would have done its work, and be exchanged for the stillness of death. Beyond that present and crushing grief Buth would not look ; but words, not of her own seeking, came into her mind, and were mur- mured through her parched lips : — ' Casting all your care upon the Lord, for He careth for you.' And, according to the promise, remem- bering these everlasting judgments, she ^received comfort.' 1 6 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER II. These Border Lands are calm and still, And solemn are their silent shades, And my heart welcomes them until The light of life's long evening fades. ON the day fixed for the visit to Wentworth Lodge, and not much after the appointed hour, Clara drove into Holmdale to take up David and Isabel. And although they were in readiness, Clara chose to alight and see Ruth_, while her cousin remained to superintend the arrangement of the boxes. Ruth had taken leave of her brother and sister up-stairs; but she did not regret being summoned doAvn, for it was worth while to see Clara looking so un- usually bright and pretty, in the smallest and most transparent of summer bonnets, a gos- samer dress and gay-coloured mantle. The contrast between the rival beauties was marked as ever, for Isabel conceived that the sharp wind of this September afternoon entitled her to discard summer guise, and she looked best in dark colours ; and never better than when, STILL WATERS. 17 as now, she wore her long cloak of Carmelite grey, and of texture so soft and fine as to fall in clinging folds round her tall and pliant form. ' Oh, Ruth !^ said Clara, as she entered the room, ' I could not go without receiving your last instructions ; for since Mr. Lennox and Isabel go, as it were, under my wing, I shall feel responsible for their behaviour, and I am ready to attend to any hints on the subject.^ ^ If I did not know that anv hint would be t/ thrown away, Clara, I might say that example is better than precept.^ ' I understand ; and hereby exhort !Mr. Lennox and Isabel to make me their pattern in every particular. There is no danger now that they will eat with their knives, or ride in a carriage, or transgress any other laws of society.^ ' Ah ! Clara,^ said Ruth, with a smile, which was, however, grave and unwilling. ' Do you transgress no other laws V Clara was only excited by her success in rousing something of the old spirit which used to lead Ruth to lecture and rebuke her ; but David was quite on the defensive. VOL. II. c 1 8 STILL WATERS. ^ Ruth/ he said, ^ always takes refuge in gene- ralities/ ' Generalities/ repeated his sister ; ^ I was afraid that Clara might think me only too per- sonal/ ' So you are in one sense/ said Clara ; ^ but I quite agree with ^Ir. Lennox touching your reserve ever since this \dsit to \Yentworth Lodge was proposed. I have seen that you disliked the idea without being able to extract the reason/ ' It was not likely that you would attend to my reasons/ said Ruth. ' Still you might have given me the option. But you never tell me now what you think or care about.^ ' As one grows old_, one does not care about so many things ; or sometimes I care so much, that I donH care to say anything which you would take hold of to torment and woriy, as a kitten does a ball/ ^ In that case we had better become monks of La Chartreuse at once/ said Clara. ' There must be some listeners in the world, as well as speakers/ answered Ruth, smiling a little at the inaptitude expressed by every fold and flutter of Clara^s gay dress for such a STILL WATERS. 1 9 vocation ; ' and I believe that the first are almost as useful members of society as the last/ ' But, Ruth/ said Isabel, coming up to her, ^ I need not go even now, if you think I had better not/ ' It is only one of Clara's fancies,' said Ruth ; 'mamma would be quite disappointed if you gave up the visit; and she seems better this afternoon/ ' So that is your reason for looking grave/ said Clara. * Mrs. Lennox has been worse/ ' Only not better,' Ruth answered ; ' this has been such a long, wearing attack.' 'Wearing to others as well as to herself,' said Clara. ' Mr. Lennox tells me — and I can quite believe it — that you are growing ner- vous and dispirited from want of sleep, and I have a great mind to stay and enliven you — no one will miss me at the Lodge.' ' Not I,' said David, promptly, as she glanced towards him, ' for I shall certainly stay at home too.' ' In that case there would be no one but the Captain to chaperon Isabel, which would not be quite correct, would it, Ruth V said Clara. Ruth was spared the necessity of devising such a reply as might cover her sister's cou- c 2 20 STILL WATERS. fusion, by the entrance of the Captain himself, to announce that the carriage was ready ; and he was next attacked by his lively cousin. 'Well, Evelyn, you find us all disputing for the honour of sharing Ruth^s seclusion. Will you not make the same magnanimous offer V ' If T had any hope that it would be accept- able,' replied Evelyn, coolly. Ruth understood the allusion to the want of cordiality, w^hich had from the first marked their intercourse ; but, while Isabel looked dis- concerted and unhappy, she only said, ' It really is not fair to keep the horses standing, when they have such a long drive before them.' ' A polite hint that you have had enough of our company,' said Clara, laughing ; ^ and you are quite content to be left alone V ' I cannot think what you mean by my being alone, when I have mamma,' said Ruth. ' Good-bye, dear Ruth,' said Isabel, return- ing her fond, though hurried embrace. ' You will write a line about mamma to-morrow, and we shall be home by three on Tuesday.' She sprang into the carriage, followed by Clara, who continued to kiss and wave her hand as long as she could catch a glimpse of Ruth's figure on the doorstep. And Ruth stood there STILL WATERS. 21 until the carriage was out of sight, and then turned slowly into the house. Dr. Berkeley had not been to the Red House since the memorable afternoon when he liad found courage to confess his love to Mrs. Len- nox ; but she had written to inform him of E/Uth's unwilling consent to refrain from abso- lutely rejecting his suit ; and the tone of his brief reply made Ruth fear that this concession had been expressed in terms which drew their colouring from her mother^s own wishes. They had not met since ; and although nervously shrinking from the inevitable explanation^ Ruth saw the necessity of submitting to it, rather than to suffer the hopes to which !Mrs. Lennoxes letter had given rise to gather strength. She imagined that the Doctor might avail himself of the absence of her brother and sister ; and as Mrs. Lennox was best pleased to be alone^ she resolutely sat down-stairs for the greater part of the evening. Her colour went and came at every footfall on the pavement, but her solitude was undisturbed; and Ruth could not guess who it was who passed and repassed so frequently, watching the single shadow cast upon the window-blind by the small bright lamp, with- out finding courage to enter. ' To-morrow/ 2Z STILL WATERS. thought Dr. Berkeley^ ^hen at last he returued^ chilled and weary, to his own house. ^ To- morrow we must, as usual, walk home from church together, and then I must say one word to satisfy myself that she is not offended by my presumption, and to assure her that I shall be silent until she bids me speak.^ On the morrow, however, Ruth was missing from her accustomed place in church ; and on inquiring at the Red House, after the morning service, Dr. Berkeley learned that ^liss Lennox had been up all night with her mother, and had now gone to lie down. ' I can tell her that you are here,^ said Sally, believing that Ruth might be cheered by the face of a friend ; but the Doctor was of a different opinion, and he only left a message to entreat that Miss Lennox would send for him if he could be of any use. As she lay in her own room, Ruth heard the colloquy on the stairs, and recognised the Doctor's voice. In child-like obedience to her mother's wishes, she had closed the shut- ters, and lain down to try and sleep, only to become more painfully alive to the fluttering of her heart, and the restless quivering of every nerve. In the sick room, when her mother's attacks of exhaustion were most STILL WATERS. 23 alarming, slie could minister to her needs with thoughtful tenderness, never suffering her hand to tremble nor her voice to falter; but the reaction came as soon as the strain was relaxed. That long and anxious night had justified her forebodings, and although Mr. Ball, for whom she sent at an early hour of the morn- ing, continued to speak sanguinely, she fancied that his tone was changed, and that he only wished to maintain his consistency and to calm her fears. Still he would not sanction her desire to recall David and Isabel, and she did not like to act on her own responsibility, since it might only alarm them unnecessarily, and agitate [Mrs. Lennox. She contented herself with a brief account of her mother^s increasing weakness in her letter to Isabel, belie\ing that it must convey to them an im- pression of the anxiety which she did not openly declare. Mrs. Lennox rallied as the day went on, although she was little inclined to speak, and the few words she said argued the same conviction as before, that the end was near. Therefore, when she asked whether David and Isabel were to return on the following day, or 24 STILL WATERS. on Tuesday, Ruth felt justified in framing her answer so as to relieve her own intolerable weight of care. ' Not till Tuesday, mamma ; but it would be easy to summon them home if you wished it/ ' No/ said Mrs. Lennox ; ' there is no need to shorten the last holiday-making they will have for some time. Tuesday will be soon enough, though not too soon.^ Tuesday came, and Dr. Berkeley was among the first to call at the Red House that day, for a report of Mr. Ball^s altered opinion had spread through the town, and it was said that he ad- mitted !Mrs. Lennoxes prostration of strength to be very alarming. ' Her night was very bad,^ Sally said, in answer to his inquiries, ' but Miss Lennox will tell you herself, for she wished to see you when you came.^ Dr. Berkeley had little time to recover his composure or to lose it, as the case might be, before Ruth appeared. She was perfectly calm in voice and manner; the firm, pale lips did not falter, and her eyes were glazed and tear- less. But Dr. Berkeley thought, as he looked at her, of the poet's lines : — * And in my heart, if calm at all, K any calm, a calm despair.' STILL WATERS. 25 ' You are not fit to be alone^ IMiss Lennox/ he said; '^you should have sent for nie^ if I could have been of the slightest use or com- fort/ ^ It was only this morning that I wished to see you. I have written to Mr. Smith to ask him to come at three to administer the Holy Communion. Da^id and Isabel wiU have re- turned, but mamma — we both — wish that you should be there also.^ ' I will come/ said Dr. Berkeley; and he was unable to say more. ^ If they leave the Lodge directly after break- fast/ continued Ruth, ' they should be here at twelve. It is grievous to think how unpre- pared they both are, and poor Isabel especially will take it so much to heart that she should have been away at this time.'' ^ It is more grievous on your account that you have been left to bear such a charge alone. Surely, Miss Lennox,^ and Dr. Berkeley spoke with a hesitation which seemed to deprecate the idea that he had the slightest claim to such a privilege, *^ surely you will permit me to remain in the house. I must just go back to make arrangements with Harrison for my class, but I will return at once.^ 26 STILL WATERS. ' If it is not inconvenient/ said Ruth ; and Dr. Berkeley looked pained by tlie reply. ' Can you suppose/ lie said, ^ that I should suffer any inconvenience to come between us?' Then for the first time Kuth remembered the position in which he stood, and felt inclined to retract the permission of which he was so eager to avail himself. But she knew how deeply a refusal would wound him, and she really felt the need of some stronger mind on which to rely. So the Doctor was presently established in the drawing-room to occupy himself in replying to the notes and messages which poured in. ' It is woman's work/ Ruth said, with a faint smile, ' but I must leave it all to you. I can do little for her now, yet I have a selfish longing to be with her — the time is so short.' ^ Go now/ said Dr. Berkeley, as she lingered for a moment to provide him with pens and paper ; ^ I can find everything.' One, two o'clock came, but David and Isabel had not returned. INIore than once Mrs. Len- nox awoke with a start from a few moments' uneasy sleep, and asked faintly, ^ Have they come ?' And still Ruth made the same reply, with a STILL WATERS. 27 failing hearty ' Not yetj mamma^ but tliey must come soon.' ^ Poor children !^ ^Irs. Lennox murmured, as she sank back on her pillows. ^ It will not do to wait for them^ Kuth, I am so faint and spent. Will Mr. Smith come soon V Ruth left Sally with her mother, and went down to Dr. Berkeley. * Is there any change V he asked, shocked by the face of ashy paleness which met his eyes. And as Ruth wrung her hands in un- controllable anguish without finding voice to speak, he asked again, ' Shall I go for Ball V ' No, it would be of no use ; she said so her- self,^ answered Ruth, the words escaping with diflBculty through her set teeth, and Dr. Berkeley was almost more agitated than herself, even while he attempted to soothe her. ' Miss Lennox — dear Ruth, be patient, be calm. You have borne all so nobly until now, even while looking forward to this end.^ ' It is not that/ said Ruth. ' She is going fast; and even now she is entering into that perfect peace of which we who are left behind can never taste : but she had one earthly hope remaining — to see David and Isabel again, and it is not to be. Oh, if I had but sent !' 28 STILL WATERS. ' They may still be in time/ said Dr. Berkeley ; and Ruth only shook her head. She rightly guessed that they had been persuaded to defer their return until the following day. Mr. Smith came, and with him and Dr. Berkeley Euth returned to the chamber of death. For that life was fleeting fast none now could doubt, who marked the sharpened features, so full of peace and spiritual beauty. At the beginning of the service the mother cast one wistful glance around, as if in search of her absent children ; but when her eyes fell on the figure kneeling beside Buth she seemed satisfied, and Dr. Berkeley rightly interpreted her confidence that she might safely commit her dearest earthly treasure to his keeping. And then all earthly care was laid aside, and to her, and to those who were joined in that communion, but one thought was present, — the participation of that Life over which death has no power. STILL WATERS. 29 CHAPTER III. Wliere faces are hueless, where eyelids are dewless, Where passion is silent, and hearts never crave, WTiere thought hath no theme, and where sleep hath no dream, In patience and peace thoa art gone — to thy grave ! Geoege Meeedith. A GAY party -was gathered round the dinner- table at Wentworth Lodge that evening, and few were gayer than David Lennox. Clara had never appeared more fascinating, or distin- guished him with more marked favour. She had scarcely a word to bestow on her cousin Evelyn, who sat on her other side, and he was forced to solace himself by becoming particu- larly agreeable to Lady ]Maria. Isabel was less happily placed between Lord Raeburn and Lord Edward; and in order to escape from the unwelcome attentions of the former, she embarked in a political discussion, in which, however, she did not betray any lively interest. But it would be unjust to ascribe her pre-occupied manner to her position 30 STILL WATERS. at tlie dinner- table, for she was dissatisfied and ill at ease, reproaching herself for not having insisted on their departure that afternoon. In reality, the decision had not rested with her; Lady Maria had urged them not to be the first to break up the party, David ruled that it must be as Miss Gascoigne chose, and Miss Gascoigne chose to stay. Isabel had proposed to return home without her, but her brother refused to listen to the suggestion, and took some pains to construe Ruth^s report into a good account. And Isabel was forced to silence her misgiv- ings, and to console herself with the thought that one day could make little difierence. They had not long sat down to dinner when a message was brought in to David, that there was a person wishing to speak to him. ^ "Who is it V David asked; and the servant replied that ^the gentleman did not give his name.^ 'A mysterious stranger,^ said Clara, lightly. David laughed, and bade the servant say that he would come directly. Although Isabel only heard imperfectly what was passing, a foreboding of the truth sent a chill to her heart, and she looked imploringly at her brother; but he had turned again to STILL WATERS. ^i Clara^ and their eyes did not meet. IsabePs chair was close to the door opening into the entrance-hall, and in a lull of conversation the tones of a voice she could not mistake reached her ears : ^ Have yon sent in my message to Mr. Lennox ?^ A stifled cry broke from her : ' It is the Doctor ! ^ she said, leaning forward to arrest her brother^s attention, and she left the room, almost instantly followed by David. ' I see you guess the truth,^ said Dr. Berke- ley j ' I have come to summon you home. We waited, expecting you to come.^ ^And now it is too late,^ said Isabel. ^ I trust not ; IMrs. Lennox is sinking fast, but she was still conscious when I left.^ The Doctor was not disposed to suppress or soften the truth, for his sympathies were all with her who was left to watch alone in the chamber of death. ^ Where is your cloak?' he continued; ' every moment is precious, and the fly is wait- ing to take us back at once.' There was relief in immediate action. David threw a cloak about his sister, and bade her follow the Doctor, while he hurried back to the dining-room to explain the cause of their de- parture to the party which sat there in con- strained silence. To Clara, and not to Ladv 3a STILL WATERS. Maria^ David instinctively addressed himself. * You must make our excuses/ he said^ in a low, hurried voice ; ' my mother is very ill, and •we must go at once. God grant it may not be too late !' 'And it was I who kept you/ said Clara, with real feeling ; ' and poor Ruth is alone. Make haste back to comfort and take care of her.' David took, and for a moment detained her hand, and then he hurried away, without bestowing a look or thought on the rest of the party. It was a long, dreary drive. The horses were tired; and although Dr. Berkeley had ordered a fresh pair to be in readiness at Lapton, the town through which they must pass, some time was lost in changing, and the night was dark and roads bad. Cowering down, with her face buried in her hands, Isabel was utterly unable to speak, and less conscious of the lapse of time than David, who, in his rest- less agitation, only retarded progress by putting his head out of window to entreat the driver to make haste, to ask how far they had gone, and if the man was sure of his road. The Doctor leaned back in his corner, almost as silent as Isabel, vet roused to answer David when he STILL WATERS. ^^ said that Ruth should have sent for them last night. ^You seem to forget/ he said, '^that you were expected at home some hours ago/ Isabel shivered, and David drew her to his side and whispered soothing words : ' Be pa- tient, dearest; we shall be there soon/ Not soon, yet at length the vehicle rolled into the dimly-lighted High-street, and stopped at the door of the Red House. Before the carriage drew up, David was on the pavement ; and at the same moment the door was opened by Sally, who hastened to impart the informa- tion he dared not ask. 'Thank God, Mr. David, you are in time. Miss Lennox heard the wheels and sent me down ; and she was asking for you not long since. ^ ' Thank God,^ David repeated. He lifted Isabel from the carriage, who clung to him helplessly for support, and led her into the house. The light fell upon her drooping form, and her gay evening dress seemed sadly out of keeping with the expression of stupified misery, which robbed her face of all its wonted beauty ; but it was not a time to think of these things, and without a moment^s delay the VOL. H. D 34 STILL WATERS. brother and sister ascended the stair together. The door of their mother^s room stood open ; and the low, thrilling tones of RutVs voice met the ear — ^ ' Yea, though T walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff comfort me/ ' Struggling for that 'breath of life^ which the Lord God was now recalling to Himself, Mrs. Lennox sat, supported by RutVs en- circling arm. And Ruth looked up with a strange and quiet smile, reflecting the holy calm of her mother^s countenance, although she could not, without a pang, disturb that heavenly peace by recalling the departing spirit to the consciousness of the ties so nearly severed. ' ;Mamma,^ she said, ' they are come. David and Isabel are here. Will you not look up and speak to them?^ It seemed that the words fell on an un- heeding ear; and David repeated with pas- sionate earnestness — 'Mother, we are here. Say but one word of farewell and blessing.' This time the appeal was not made in vain. The power of speech was gone, but the mother STILL WATERS. ^^ turned "apon lier son a look of unspeakable love and tenderness ; and while lie pressed one cold hand to his lips, the other sought Isabel's head, who had thrown herself on her knees beside the bed. It was the last effort. There was another gasping sigh, a few more palpitations of the fluttering hearty and then all was still, and the lifeless form alone was clasped by Ruth^s upholding arm. Gently, as a mother might lay her child to sleep, she placed the hanging head on the pillow : reverently she closed the eyes, and kissed the brow of the dead. ISot yet might she cease from ministrations of love. To lead Isabel from the room, and to still her hysterical sobs, was an easier task than to appease the vehement self- upbrai dings which followed. Isabel tore down with a sort of loathing the crushed and faded blossoms of scarlet geranium which still decked her hair, and trampled them under her feet. ' In these miserable vanities I took delight/ she said, '^ while you watched and waited, and she asked why we did not come.^ ' She saw and knew you. Her last earthly thought was yom's and David's/ said Ruth, gently. D 2 36 STILL WATERS. But the bitterness of IsabeVs remorse turned all to gall. * You do well to grudge it to us_, Ruth ; that last look should have been yours/ ' Dear Isabel/ said E-uth^ ' you must not say such cruel words. There was love enough for all — such love as we shall never know again ; but its memory will serve to bind us closer to each other. And if you think of all her suf- ferings_, of the long hours of sleepless pain and weariness^ and then of that smile which told how she entered into her rest, you will thank God with me that He gave her to us for so long, and that He has now taken her to Him- self.^ ^ I must tell you all, Ruth/ said her sister ; ' and then you will understand how even these thouc^hts can brino; no comfort. I shall never forgive myself for not giving up this visit. I wished to go, and so refused to see how anxious you were, and chose to believe what Da^dd said, who was really deceived by Mr. BalFs opinion.' ' You went to please David rather than your- self/ said Ruth ; ' and you must not embitter his grief by dwelling too much on the loss of these few days. We must all feel how im- perfectly we loved her^ and how little we prized STILL WATERS. Zl the blessing as we might have done — as we should do now, if life could be lived over again/ ' You have no cause to feel this, Euth.' 'You little know,' said Ruth. 'But we must take this as part of the trial, dear^ and be patient/ Ruth's self-command did not desert her throughout the ensuing week, although there was much to try her, and especially in her intercourse with David. His grief was genuine and touching ; for he had loved his mother fondly, and he so little contemplated such an end of her lingering illness, that her death came to him as a sudden shock. But he was of an age when men scarcely know what to do with grief. Unable to control it, and yet ashamed of its expression, he often took refuge in sullen silence, and sat for hours, listlessly turning over the leaves of a book. Then again he would try to talk of indifferent matters, generally breaking down in the attempt, or he endeavoured to distract his mind by dwelling with restless solicitude on the details of their mourning, or the arrangements for the funeral. Sometimes he entered into discussion of their future plans ; and to Ruth this was most pain- ful of all. The way in which she recoiled from 38 STILL WATERS. the subject proved that her apparent calmness only veiled an aching desolation of heart. She could not look forward, nor take any interest in the long, long life before her. David and Isabel clung to each other ; and this brought home, as her mother had foretold, a keen sense of isolation. Already, ^vhen she constrained herself to give her mind to the plan proposed by David, she was obliged to differ from him, and therefore of necessity from Isabel. David^s plan was this. That, as the dimi- nution of their income by their mother's death rendered the Red House and garden too large for their means, his sisters should move to a small cottage just outside the park-gates of Dyne Court, which Sir John was anxious to let. This had been Clara's suggestion, whom he had seen in one of her numerous visits of inquiry, and she was wild about the scheme. Isabel was also in favour of it, since she had always disliked Holmdale, and she considered that their only tie to it would be broken by the necessity of forsaking their present home. Kuth said little, only pleading that there was no need to decide hastily, since they could not give up their house until Christmas. To which David replied that, if Mr. Dunn took the lease STILL WATERS. 39 off their hands, as he was disposed to do^ they might move at once. The funeral took place on Saturday; and although Dr. Berkeley was the only person whom Da\TLd had requested to attend, there were many others there, and not townspeople alone, for Sir John and his nephew rode over from Dyne Court at the appointed hour. ^ The attention was very well taken/ Sir John remarked, as they rode home after the ceremony. ' Young Lennox seemed quite af- fected by it. I had no opportunity of speaking to those poor girls, and I was quite shocked to see them there. One of them, at any rate, would have been much better at home. I could not see through their crape veils whether it was Ruth or Isabel who cried so terribly.' ' Isabel, of course,' said Evelyn ; ' you would not suspect the other of any exhibition of feeling.' ' Well,' said Sir John, ' I should think that Euth must be most affected by her mother's death. Clara tells me that her devotion and tenderness were quite remarkable.' ^Miss Lennox is much too conscientious to give way,' said Evelyn, with a slight sneer ; ^ but I must sav that I admired her impassive 40 STILL WATERS. manner to-day, for such violent emotion is net seemly in public/ And at that verj^ time Isabel learned from David what her blinding tears had not suffered her to see, that Captain Gascoigne was among those gathered round the grave. She heard it in silence, but with a thrill of mingled feelmg, and more than once in that long comfortless day the thought recurred to her that he felt with and for her in this sorrow. STILL WATERS. 41 CHAPTER IV. It is not that our later years Of cares are woven wholly ; But smiles less swiftly chase the tears, And wounds are healed more slowly, And memory's vow To lost ones now Makes joys too bright unholy. E. B. Lytton. T\Il. BERKELEY had not spoken to Ruth, -■-^ and had only seen her at the funeral since the day of her mother's death ; hut he ventured to join her as she walked back from church on Sunday mornings her brother and sister having started for a walk in the opposite direction. Ruth answered his inquiries after herself briefly and with indifference^ and then made some remark on the weather, and it seemed that neither of them ventured to allude to the subject which filled the hearts of both ; yet, when the Doctor would have taken leave at the door of the Red House, Ruth asked him to come in. 42 STILL WATERS. ' If it will not be too much for you/ he said. ' Oh no ; or shall we go into the garden, which is pleasanter ?' Ruth led the way there, and silently ac- quiesced in the Doctor's suggestion that they should sit down on the sunny stone bench below the window. And as she sat, idly tracing figures on the gravel with the point of her parasol, and bending forward, so that even her profile was hidden by the folds of her crape veil, she made, in a grave, calm voice, the acknowledgment she had brought him there to hear. ' I wished to thank you, Dr. Berkeley, for all that you did for us on that day. If I had only sent a messenger to Wentworth Lodge, time must have been lost, and I don't know how Isabel would have borne it if they had been too late.' ' You will believe me, !Miss Lennox/ replied the Doctor, in a tone by no means so com- posed as her own, ' that, however much I felt for her and David, I chiefly desired to spare you — of whom no one, and yourself least of ail, appears to think.^ * I shall do very well,' said Ruth, as if STILL TYATERS. 43 slie had liad enougli of the subject. But Dr. Berkeley felt that he must go on now he had begun. ^ Do not suspect me of any intention to forfeit my pledge,, or imagine that I am selfish and unfeeling enough to trouble you with hopes and fears which are out of keeping with your own sad thoughts. But^ as a friend, you must permit me to take some interest in your future life, and Da\^d tells me that I am named as IsabePs guardian^ which surely gives me some claim to your confidence.^ ' You need not find so many good reasons/ said Ruth ; ^ she wished us to take counsel with you.^ ^ Then you will not think me officious^ if I ask whether it is true that you think of giving up this house, and taking the cottage by Dyne Court ? Dunn told me^ and he had it from Sir John.^ ^ They have been talking of it,^ said Buth -, ' but nothing is settled yet.' ' And you do not wish it, I am sure.' 'I do not know. I shall be sorry to leave this place ; but otherwise I do not care what happens.' ^ You ought to care/ said Dr. Berkeley^ and^ 44 STILL WATERS. lover though he was, there was soraething paternal in the tone of the advice,, and as such it was received by Ruth. ' I know I ought — so I will make a fresh start on Monday morning/ ' Why not begin at once, and try to find out what you wish? I know that now life must seem to be without an object, but you will cast about for fresh interests, and these are more likely to spring up in Holmdale/ ' So I have thought, in walking through the by-streets, where so much might be done. But Isabel, poor child, has a restless desire to leave the town.' ' And you think this a sufficient reason for giving up your old home ?' ' We must move somewhere, for we cannot afford to keep up this house and garden.' ' If you wished it. Miss Lennox, nothing would be more easy.' Ruth did not comprehend his meaning, and she said, with a smile, ' You have still to learn a guardian's duties, if you begin your career by advising an act of imprudence.' ' I only wish to use a guardian's privilege in solving the difficulty. You know how far my expenses are from coming up to my in- STILL WATERS. 4^; come^ and what pleasure it would give me to apply any portion of it to your convenience/ Euth coloured, but replied promptly, and with decision, ^ Such an alternative, Dr. Berkeley, would appear to my brother and sister, as to myself, neither easy nor difficult, but simply impossible.^ Mortified and disappointed, the Doctor made no attempt to urge his request; and when Ruth perceived how deeply he was wounded, she felt constrained to soften the pain of refusal. ' I did not mean to be ungracious,^ she said; ^for indeed I am not ungrateful. But it will be really better to break np our esta- blishment at once, for we shall only feel un- settled until it is done, and the change will be an interest and occupation for Isabel, though I don^t mind confessing to you my disinclina- tion for this cottage of Sir John's. Perhaps you may find an opportunity of talking it over with David.^ The Doctor thanked her for the permission so warmly, that Ruth almost wished to retract it. She felt languid and ill, and quite unequal to the task of weighing her words with the care which their intercourse demanded, and 46 STILL WATERS. Dr. Berkeley took leave as soon as he per- ceived the expression of weariness which crept over her face. Ruth went up-stairs^ and had just laid her- self on her bed^ when a quick, light step was followed by a knock she knew too well, and although she would have given much to avert the intrusion, there was no resource, and Clara entered before the permission was faii'ly spoken. ' My dear child '/ she said, in a tone but one degrge graver than usual, ' I am so glad I made my way in. That Cerberus of yours tried to turn me with ignominy from the door, but I was certain you would see me, especially since I had discretion enough to start without telling Evelyn anything about it. So he went out with papa, and now I have sent the carriage away, and I mean to stay and go to church with you.^ ' I don^t think I shall be able to go back to church,^ said Ruth. ^Now, don^t be ungracious,^ said Clara, im- ploringly. ^ I mean to be very good and quiet, and not tire you in the least. So lay your head down on the pillow again, and let me talk. I declare,^ she continued, as Ruth complied with the request^ ^ you don^t look one bit better.^ STILL WATERS. 47 ' Wliat did you expect ?' said Ruth, smiling faintly. ^ You ought at least to feel less tired, now that your nights are unbroken/ ' Unbroken '/ Euth repeated, with an expres- sion of pain. ' You little know.^ ' How should I know, Ruth, when you never tell me anything V ' I only mean that the nights are the worst of all. If I sleep for five minutes together, I wake with a start, thinking I hear her bell or her low voice calling me. And I shall never hear it more !^ She turned her face away and burst into tears, and Clara, strangely moved, as once be- fore, by the unwonted betrayal of feeling, clung round her with caressing tenderness. '^Do not cry, dear Ruth, for I would do anything to comfort you. It is no wonder you feel so wretched if you don^t sleep, and it is enough to give you a fever or some- thing of that sort. Change of air would be best, and I think that you had better come to Dyne Court at once.^ No suggestion could have had a more seda- tive effect, for Ruth checked her tears to com- bat it. But no efforts could dispel an idea 48 STILL WATERS. whicli liad once taken possession of Clara's mind. ' I am sure it would be a good plan. We are quite alone now, and you shall have your own rooms up-stairs_, and be as quiet as you please. I shall ask Mr. Lennox as soon as ever he comes home.' ' Pray do not, Clara.' ^ There is no harm asking/ said Clara, with one of her wayward smiles. ' There is no use, however/ said Ruth, sit- ting up, and speaking resolutely; '^for I shall not go, whatever David says.' ^T shall make him send for Mr. Ball, and you must do as he tells you. Then we can settle this charming plan about the cottage ; you will see what alterations it needs, and Papa shall do whatever you fancy. It is all for your good,' Clara added, as Ruth looked vexed, and forbore to argue the point ; ^ and I should like so much to take care of you.' ^For a day and a half; and then you would tire of me, as you did of that tame linnet ; do you remember ?' 'A^Tiich Mr. Clinton caught and tamed, and you found it almost starved ? Yes, I do re- member the lecture visited upon me on that STILL WATERS. 49 occasion,, but I shall not starve you, ox, at any rate, Isabel will be at hand to repair my negli- gence/ ' Will you come to luncheon, Ruth V said Isabel, half opening the door of the room. She had not been informed of Clara^s presence there, and as soon as she perceived her she stopped short, and the colour rushed into her face ; but she di'ove back the tears by a strong effort, and shook hands quietly. Clara was more struck by the traces grief had left on the face she had last seen radiant in bright beauty, than by the less marked alteration which she saw in Ruth; and she said, remorsefully — ^ I don^t wonder that you hate the sight of me, Isabel, but you know that I never guessed how it was to be when I asked you to stay another day.^ ^ I know,' said Isabel, shrinking back ; * please don't talk of it.' And she sat listlessly down beside Ruth, who remarked that she seemed tired with her walk. 'We did not walk far/ Isabel replied, idly interlacing her sister's fingers with her ow]i, Avhile it was evident that her thoughts were far away. It was a new thing for Clara to witness VOL. II. E 50 STILL WATERS. sucli absorbing grief, and she recoiled from emotion so micongenial to her own temper. And Euth perceived and indulged the feeling, asking whether she would not take compassion on David, who must wonder what they were all about. ' I will go/ said Clara, springing up ; and she thought the brightening smile with which David acknowledged the ' unexpected happi- ness' contrasted pleasantly with the two sad and tear-stained faces from which she had just parted. He quite entered into her scheme of removing his sisters to Dyne Court, although not sanguine of his success in overcoming EutVs disinclination to agree to it. But in truth reason was for once on Clara's side. As the day wore on, Ruth's strength flagged more and more, and it was necessary to put Clara's playful threat into execution, and call in IMr. Ball. And her triumph was com- plete when Isabel wrote that he prescribed change of air and scene, and advised her re- moval to Dyne Court, until she had regained strength to undertake a longer journey. ^ I don't know whether you intended me to go with her,' Isabel rather bluntly concluded her note, ^ but I really don't think Ruth is fit to go STILL WATEKS. 5 1 alone. She grows weaker and more languid every day/ ' Of coui'se I expect you all three/ Clara wrote in answer ; ^ and I have made papa put off one or two people who were coming, that the house may be quiet. Evelyn is still here^ but he, you know, is one of the family.^ The good people of Holmdale were rather scandalized by this visit to Dyne Com-t. It was surprising that Ruth should be equal to the overflowing spmts and liveliness of Miss Gascoigne, when she refused to receive the visits of her old friends, and Miss Perrott feared that she had weakly yielded to the eagerness of her brother and sister to pursue their respective flirtations, indecorous as it was, after their recent loss. But Isabel, at all events, was wronged by the imputation of any ulterior designs, for she looked forward to her meeting with Captain Gascoigne with unmixed pain, feeling that it would have been a relief to know that he was gone. The light, sparkling talk, which had seemed so pleasant at the time, would now be out of tune, and she had some misgi^^ngs whether there were any graver thoughts in resen^e. Nor did Evelyn appear to be much delighted with this opportunity of E 2, LIBRARY UNiVERSITYOFiMM 5^ STILL WATERS. renewing their intercourse ; at least when Clara showed him the note in which Isabel begged that the carriage might be sent for them on the following day, he only raised his eyebrows, and asked whether he must measure his condo- lence by the depth of that black border. On the morrow, however, the carriage came up the approach as Evelyn came in from shoot- ing, and he gave his gun to the keeper, and hastened on, so as to be the first to reach the colonnade. IsabeFs fancied indifierence vanished when she found her hand fast locked in hisj yet she drew back, and said that she must take care of E-uth. ^ In that charge you have been anticipated,' said Evelyn, as David gave his arm to his sister, and Clara followed. ' Come and take a turn in the garden ; it is a beautiful afternoon/ ' I had better — I would rather see that Ruth is settled comfortably,' said Isabel. ' I came home from shooting an hour earlier than usual with a view to our walk,' said Evelyn, and Isabel answered with hesitation — ^ I will come down again if I can, but in- deed I must go to Ruth now. She is so weak, and Clara will only weary her with kind- ness.' STILL WATERS. 53. ' Your sister looks mucli as usual/ Isabel no longer hesitated, but answered with indignant quickness — * So people say, forgetting that she was ever otherwise, because all looks of health have been worn away so long. She never spared herself, and now our doctor says that nature must have her revenge, and that the fatigue which was kept under for the time, is telling now. Oh ! I have been so worried by the townspeople making their way in, wanting to see Ruth, and exhorting me not to let her give way or in- dulge a morbid love of seclusion, I could not breathe freely till we left the last house behind us.' ' And now you think me as bad as the townspeople ?' * Not quite,' Isabel answered, rather de- murely ; and Evelyn acknowledged the compli- ment with a smile. ' Then,' he resumed, when she was again about to leave him, ' you will come back in a few minutes, or I shall certainly think that you put me in the same class as the United Ser- \dce.' ' I don't know; I suppose I shaU come down in the evening.' 54 STILL WATEKS. ^ In the evening ? I quite understood that you would be at dinner/ 'Not if Ruth would like to have me with her/ ' You think of nothing but Kuth/ said Cap- tain Gascoigne^ with a playful inflection of his voice ; but Isabel was startled, and not quite pleased by the familiar appellation. She had stooped to caress the glossy brown pointer which crouched and curled at her feet, and she raised her head with an air of unconscious dignity as she replied — ' My sister needs all our care/ 'Well/ said Captain Gascoigne, lightly, 'I hope that duty need not interfere with the pleasure of seeing you at dinner/ And whistling to his dogs, he sauntered on, while Isabel stiU stood leaning against a column, her clasped hands flung down, her eyes also downcast, per- haps to restrain the tears with which their full lids were charged. The sense of loneliness and depression which she had vainly hoped to leave behind her at Holmdale was as keenly felt as ever. She was remorseful for having lingered so long, when she roused herself from a dream to go up-stairs. The door of Clara's boudoir was STILL WATERS. 55 open Tvhen slie passed along the corridor^ and Clara herself was there^ displaying to Da^id the trinkets and ornaments with which the tables were loaded. He was duly sensible of the distinction of being admitted to her own pecu- liar sitting-room, and he examined every gold pen and etui with a care which tended to prolong the pleasure^ while he informed Isabel that they had left Ruth to rest, and that she had better see if she was in need of anything. Ruth was not resting, for, like many ex- cellent nm'ses, she was a very unmanageable patient ; and because she felt peculiarly ill, and tired by her drive, she set to work to unpack and arrange the contents of the portmanteau, in which employment she was sm'prised by Isabel. ' I thought you might come in late,^ she said, anticipating her sister^s reproaches, ^ and then you would not be ready for dinner/ Isabel did not vouchsafe to reply until she had constrained Ruth, with a force which she was too weary to resist, to lie down on the sofa, and then she asked — ' ^lust I go to dinner V ' I think so, dear,' said Ruth, a little sm'- prised by her unwillingness ; ^ Clara seems to 56 STILL WATERS. expect it^ and Sir John will be vexed if we are neither of us there. ]\Iy head aches so much that I cannot sit through it to-night/ ^ Of course not/ said Isabel, as she lightly- laid her hand on her sister^s feverish brows ; ' Mr. Ball says you are not to think of appear- ing except for a drive. And you will not let me stay and take care of you ?' ' I will engage to lie quiet till you come up again/ said Ruth ; ^ but I think that we must live with the family, as we have come here. Of course it would be different if there were strangers in the house.' ' Captain Gascoigne is here/ said Isabel ; and as her sister looked perplexed and anxious, she went on hurriedly : ' Last time we spoke of him I was very ungracious and unreason- able ; but now, Ruth, I should like to tell you how it really is. He is not changed, and he was the same all through that ^dsit to the Lodge. It makes me sick now to think how happy I was that last afternoon when he made me walk with him to the garden after the others had gone in, and he gathered the scarlet geranium which you know I still wore. And even now I cannot hear his voice without a sort of happiness which is worse than pain. STILL WATERS. ^-J because I know that it is heartless and unfeel- ing ; and yet I cannot answer him lightly^ nor laugh and talk, as he seems to expect_, and I don't like to vex him_, so I would rather keep away/ ' It must be painful/ said Ruth ; ' but there would be something marked in avoiding all intercom'se while you are lining in the same house. And_, besides, the instinct of love must teach him to understand and enter into your mood.^ Ruth would not dispirit her sister still far- ther by expressing a fear lest that instinct should be wanting, but Isabel could draw the inference for herself. She sighed, and set about the task of preparing for dinner with the lan- guor which arises from weariness of spirit. 58 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER V. I class'd, appraising once, Earth's lamentable sounds — the well-a-day, The jarring yea and nay. The fall of kisses on unanswering clay, The sobb'd farewell, the welcome mournfuller ; But all did leaven the air With a less bitter leaven of sure despair Than these words — ' I loved once.' E. B. BEOWNiNa. ONE morning, shortly after the arrival of their visitors, Sir John called Clara back, when she was leaving the breakfast-room, and asked if she had leisure to speak to him for a few moments. A certain solemnity in his tone prepared Clara for a paternal lecture, nor was she at a loss for its subject ; but she carelessly assented, and followed her father into his study. She reclined in a rocking-chair, impatiently tapping her little foot on the ground as she moved to and fro, while Sir John stood with his back planted against the mantelpiece and his coat-tails under his arms; and then he cleared his throat, and began — STILL WATERS. 59 *" How is Miss Lennox this morning V ' Ratter better ; I liope she may be able to drive to the cottage after luncheon^ for nothing can be settled until she has seen it/ ' I dare say there would be many advantages in having them settled so near us. Ruth Lennox is a very safe friend/ ^ Very/ said Clara, a little scornfully ; ' as steady as old Time_, who, by the way, is the fastest gentleman of my acquaintance/ ^ As you say,^ returned Sir John, ^ Time is getting on, and you are of an age to be less heedless than before. Young Lennox is a good sort of young man — gentlemanlike, and re- markably well-looking ; but you should not allow the pleasure of his society to run away with your discretion. I am afraid that even less encouragement would incline him to che- rish hopes which can never be fulfilled, and your names begin to be spoken of together in the county.^ ' Only now, papa ? I should have thought that the wedding-day had been fixed long ago.' ' And Evelyn,^ continued Sir John, ' seems to fancy that this is a more serious afiair than usual. ^ This reference to her cousin seemed to 6o STILL WATERS. awaken more interest in the discussion tlian Clara had yet evinced ; but though she raised her eyes^ which were before half closed, she only said, carelessly — ' Does Evelyn think so ? He ought to know, for he has great experience in flirtations/ ^ My dear Clara '/ said Sir John, not un- naturally roused from his habitual equanimity, ' will you give me a straightforward answer, and tell me your motive in distinguishing David Lennox with such peculiar favour V ' He amuses me,^ said Clara. Sir John looked relieved, though he thought it necessary to take a high moral ground. ' Then it is a mere idle flirtation ? I thought as much, and, as I said just now, it is quite time you should learn to have some considera- tion for other people. That was the way you went on with Lynmere, and he does not seem to get over it at all. I declare it makes me quite miserable to see him.' ' Then suppose we drop the acquaintance. I am rather tired of the Knight of the Sorrow- ful Countenance.' 'Without feeling any remorse for his dis- appointment ! And now it will be just the same thing wdth Lennox.' STILL WATERS. 6 1 ^ How do you know that, papa ? Perhaps, for the sake of proving that Evelyn is infallible, I may think it my duty to fall in love with him.^ ' I see, Clara, that there is no use talking to you/ ' Indeed, papa V said Clara, yawning. ' I thought it must be useful, because it was so very disagreeable. But if you have really nothing more to say, I will go up and see whether Ruth is disposed for a drive.^ The only apparent result of this conversa- tion consisted in a still better understanding between Clara and David Lennox. Rain set in at twelve o^clock, defeating all projects for the afternoon, and Clara challenged David to a game at billiards, which lasted an un- reasonable time. In his newly-awakened fit of prudence. Sir John fidgeted in and out, trying what he could do to prevent the two young people from being left so much to- gether. He went in search of Isabel, but she was up-stairs with Ruth ; and then he applied to his nephew, to go and mark for them, but Evelyn continued to read the Times, saying that he did not imagine that his services were required. 62 STILL WATEKS. Later in the afternoon, Isabel came down to the drawing-room, considering that the wet weather would secure them against visitors, and she was interested in a discussion between Captain Gascoigne and her brother, respecting the improvements of which the cottage was capable, although less in favour of settling there than when the plan was first proposed. Evelyn had just taken up a pencil to illustrate his ideas, when Lord Raeburn was announced, whom Isabel was by no means disposed to en- counter, and she made her escape by the door opening into the libraiy. She fastened on a book, and sat there a good while, only rousing herself to throw up the window, when a gleam of watery sunshine struggled through the clouds, and she did not discover that Captain Gascoigne and Lord Raeburn had come into the colonnade with their cigars. After taking one or two turns, they sat down on a stone bench, just below the window, and her atten- tion was first arrested by the sound of her own name. ' I thought,^ said Lord Raeburn, taking the cigar from his mouth, ' that the fail- Isabel would show.' ^ Pair ?' Evelyn repeated ; ' that is not a STILL WATERS. 63 Tvell-cliosen epithet. You don't miss much — she is triste even with me^ and the effect of much crape and many tears is not happy/ ^ I don't think the worse of her for that/ rejoined Lord Kaeburn. ^ I like these im- pulsive beings, since then, at least, one may be certain that they keep a heart — an organ in which some young ladies of my acquaintance are altogether deficient/ ^ Meaning my cousin Clara. You have not touched the right chord, that is all/ said Evelyn, carelessly. ' I have lost all wish to try. But I can tell you, Gascoigne, that if you were a less for- midable rival, I should enter the lists against you.' 'You are welcome/ replied Evelyn. 'I intend to retire from the field as soon as I can do so gracefully. And really you could not do better, since you are lucky enough to be independent of ways and means. I should be glad to see the Gitaiia so well provided for, since it would be a pity to leave such queenly beauty to be wasted on some gentleman farmer or country apothecary.' There was something in this speech to oflend even Lord Kaeburn's feelings, which were far 64 STILL WATERS. from being peculiarly sensitive. He threw away the end of his cigar with a gesture of impatience, observing that he should go and join LennoXj whom he saw upon the terrace. Captain Gascoigne was not long left to the enjoyment of his own meditations^ for his name was spoken in a voice he did not at first recognise^ and he turned his head to find Isabel by his side. All his habitual coolness did not enable him to parry the indignant scorn flash- ing from those dark eyes ; he stood up_, and waited for her to speak. ' I wished to tell you/ said Isabel, ^ that I was in the library, and heard all that passed between Lord Raeburn and yourself — involun- tarily at first; but when I discovered that I was myself the subject of discussion^ I had the meanness to wait and hear the end. And now I have to thank you for your good offices.^ Evelyn was perfectly confounded, and re- plied with hesitation : ^ You misunderstood me — you take up the matter too seriously. Was it likely that I should express my real senti- ments to such a conceited puppy as Raeburn V ^ People do not usually feign sentiments which do them so little credit,^ said Isabel. * And, after all/ continued Evelyn, recover- STILL WATERS. 65 ing some assurance, ^you must not judge me too severely. !My unhappy position as captain in a marching regiment, without independent means, will not permit me to consult my own inclinations ; and I wanted resolution to tell you sooner that I am compelled to fall in with Sir John^s wishes, who destines me to be his son-in-law/ ' Indeed V said Isabel. ' You look incredulous, !Miss Lennox ; and, indeed, there has been nothing in my relations with my cousin to give colour to such an in- tention. But you do not know Clara so well as I do.^ ^ It is enough,^ said Isabel, clasping her hands upon her beating heart, for her powers of endurance were well-nigh spent ; ^ I have no wish to penetrate Clara^s sentiments, and I must again apologize for having unwittingly led you to disclose your own.^ ^Do not say so,^ said Captain Gascoigne, still detaining her when she attempted to pass ; ' you know that I ought rather to ask your forgiveness. And if we can no longer be to each other what we were, say at least that v»e part friends.^ ' As friends !' Isabel repeated, in a tone of VOL. II. F 65 STILL WATERS. bitter irony; and Evelyn bowed — and not in mockery, bnt with gennine admiration for her haughty and commanding beauty — as he stood aside and suffered her to pass. Isabel re-entered the library, but she did not tarry there ; she hurried up the broad, shallow-stepped stair to her own room, and secured the door against intrusion. And then the expression of every muscle of her face was changed — the light of her eyes quenched in blinding tears, and the pride of haughty defi- ance lost in an agony of shame and humilia- tion. The tones of Evelyn^s voice, easy and unconcerned as ever, still rang in her ears, as he had transferred his claim to her love with careless condescension to another. And the insult seemed more marked by the assurance that Clara Gascoigne was to be the next object of pursuit, and the quiet assumption that he could not sue in vain. ^ And I loved him/ thought Isabel, — '^ oh, how blindly ! — I could more readily have believed myself untrue than him.' There was a knock at the door, and David asked to be admitted, so Isabel hastily washed away her tears and complied with the request. But the traces of such violent emotion were STILL WATERS. 67 not SO easily effaced, and David remarked them with gentle upbraiding : ^ 'Mj dear child ! no wonder you grow dispirited^ moping here all the afternoon. Come down to the terrace with me, for there is still time for a turn before dinner/ ^ It is late/ said Isabel. ^ Yes ; so I shall not have time to tire you/ 'And Lord Raeburn is here.^ 'No; I knew you would not care to see him, so I waited till he was gone — much to his discomfiture, let me tell you. Do come out — it is really a fine afternoon.' Isabel could not withstand her brother's importunity, and he waited while she sought out cloak and goloshes, gaily declaring that he did not dare lose sight of her, lest her resolu- tion should fail. They went down together to the west terrace, and David was in high spi- rits ; he admired the sunset, and predicted a return of good weather ; and he pointed out the picturesque effect of a group of cedars, their broad and massive foliage looking black against the glowing sky. But Isabel's replies were brief, and often inconsequent, and at last he said, a little impatiently — 'Xow, Isabel, it is your turn to contribute F 2 68 STILL WATERS. something to tlie entertainment of the walk ; you are more sad than ever/ Isabel started^ and said that it had been a long, rainy day. ' I have not found it long/ said David ; ^and we had our own peculiar sunshine at home, so that I was perfectly indifferent to the weather out of doors/ The allusion failed to rouse Isabel, and, after walking a few paces further, David thought fit to speak plainly — ' My leave expires next month, and I cannot go without knowing my fate/ ' You mean to speak to Clara V ' And to Sir John — that is the worst part of the business/ ^Yes,^ said Isabel; but her assent was too indifferent to satisfy her brother, and he said, quickly — ^ I don^t believe that you are attending, Isabel, or that you care in the least what may happen to me/ ' Oh, David '/ exclaimed Isabel, the tears starting to her eyes in her eagerness to dis- claim the accusation. ' I do care, indeed ; and I am sure that Clara will never find another to love her so well.^ STILL WATERS. 6g ' That is true/ said David^ with kindling eyes, ' and T think Clara feels it. You must see, Isabel, how she appeals to me in every- thing. V^e continued to discuss the plans for the cottage after Raeburn came in, and if I differed either from him or Gascoigne, she always took part with me. I cannot endure suspense much longer; but when once assured of her love, the opposition we are likely to meet Avith from Sir John will not daunt me. I can wait patiently for years.^ Isabel saw that his sanguine temper would not permit him to contemplate the reverse of the picture, and any attempt to moderate his expectations was set aside with indignant quick- ness. So she fulfilled the part of a sympa- thizing listener as well as she could, glad to be released when David at last discovered that her step was slow and languid, and that it was not advisable to linger in the chill evening air. Isabel crept up to her room again, and knew not how long she had sat alone and in the dark, until Ruth came in with a candle, and then she started up, and said remorsefully — ' Oh, Ruth ! I have never come near you this whole afternoon.' '1 saw that you and David were having a 70 STILL WATEI^S. good walk on the terrace/ said Rutli, ' and I was very comfortable and quiet until towards dressing-time, when Clara came in for a gossip. But do you know that it is just dinner-time V ' I did not know it was so late/ said Isabel, as she unfastened her cloak, and began her pre- parations for dressing in a dreamy w^ay which attracted Ruth's attention. ' I thiuk/ she said, ' you were asleep when I came in/ ' No, not asleep.' ^ Only tired/ said Ruth, tenderly. ^ David should not have kept you out so long. I am to be the brisk one to-night, for Clara declares that I am well enough to go down to dinner, and I believe I am.' Isabel said that she was glad, and she felt that her sister's presence would be some pro- tection. They went down together, and Ruth's first appearance in the drawing-room made quite a sensation ; it was natural that Evelyn should address himself to her, while Isabel sat still and silent, and tightly clasping her sister's hand, which hung passively by her side. Sir John was also profuse in his inquiries, but it did not occur to Isabel until dinner was an- nounced and he gave his arm to the elder STILL WATERS. 7 1 sister^ that she must go in with Captain Gas- coigne. There was a moment's hesitation, and not on Isabels side alone, but when Clara said lightly, ' Well, Isabel, we wait your pleasure/ she could delay no longer, and she passed her hand within Captain Gascoigne's arm. As they crossed the hall he hoped that she had not suffered from her late walk, and she answered, ' Not at all, thank you '/ in a tone quiet and steady as his own. At dinner Evelyn talked across the table to Ruth, to whom he found more to say than in all their previous acquaintance ; and though it cost Ruth an effort to talk at all, since the lights and voices made her dizzy, she responded as well as she could, thinking that it would please Isabel. And Isabel was unmolested, except that Clara said suddenly — ' Ever since we sat down to dinner, Isabel, I have been wondering what made you look so unlike yourself, and now I see that it is the way you have done your hair.' ^Yes,' said Isabel, thankful to accept the reason she had suggested ; ' my curls fell out in our wet walk, and I went to dress so late that I could only put them away.^* 72 STILL WATERS. She hardly spoke again for the rest of the eveniug^ but Euth had not seen her before in society^, and she did not discover that her spirits were more than -usnally depressed. The sisters ■vTere not alone together, for Kuth "went np to her room early in the evening, and Isabel chose to think it better not to disturb her again. In truth she recoiled from the confes- sion which must be made, sooner or later. STILL WATERS. 73 CHAPTER VI. Mein dunkles Herz liebt dich, Es liebt dich, und es bricht, Und bricht und zuckt und verblutet, Aber du siehst es nicht. H. Hei>-e. "P^'TH paid for her evening^s dissipation -L^ with a sleepless night, and a headache so severe that she was nnable to lift her head from the pillow. "When Isabel went in with her morning greeting, she could only darken the rooms_, and leave her sister in peace, defer- ring for the present the communication which she had to make. Though Isabels curls clustered round her face as usual_, she did not look much more like herself^ and Clara observed her depression, and applied herself to dissipate it -with gay good humour. ' You must have a ride,^ she said ; ' we will order the horses at twelve, for it may- rain this afternoon, and one or both of the gentlemen will be delighted to be your squire.' ^ If vou can command Lennox's services, 74 STILL WATERS. perhaps mine may be dispensed with/ said Evelyn ; ^ I have designs on the pheasants/ ' Mr. Lennox is more accommodating/ said Clara ; and the hint was enough for David, although he was disappointed to find that she was not to he of the party. Clara declared that she must attend to lier household duties, and would reserve herself for a walk to the cottage in the afternoon ; and Sir John, appa- rently occupied in eating toast and reading the Time^, was gratified by the playful deter- mination with which she resisted David^s im- portunity to postpone these domestic cares, re- garding it as a concession to a filial duty. The rest of the party dispersed, and Evelyn Gascoigne was left in untlisturbed possession of the breakfast-room and of his own thoughts. These were of no pleasing character, for he had not recovered his annoyance at the contretemps of the previous day. The reserved and quiet dignity of Isabel's manner repelled such at- tempts at conciliation as he was disposed to make, and in his impatience to extricate him- self from a false position, his thoughts turned towards Clara. ^ I shall have no difficulty there, he thought ; ' and thoudi I had not intended to make the STILL WATERS. 75 final plunge so soon, I believe that "vvholesome neglect has been carried far enougli. A little more pique will entangle lier in an engagement witb Lennox, and any opposition from Sir John would only rouse her wilful spii'it to persist in it/ And he acted promptly on the conclusion to which he had arrived, for he laid aside the paper, and went up-staii's to seek his cousin. After she had driven Piuth almost distracted by her restless movements round the room, altering her pillows, and begging her to try aromatic vinegar, eau de Cologne, and every other conceivable remedy which might alle- viate the pain, Clara at last retreated to her boudoii', to devote the morning to the formi- dable pile of tradesmen's books which had accumulated on her writing-table. But she turned from the distasteful occupation with great alacrity when her cousin entered the room. ' So it is only you, Evelyn. I was afraid it might be Smith, come to talk about the ' butcher, the baker, and candlestick-maker,' and hope it was all right. Of course it is all right, or, if it is all wrong, it does not much signify. But I thought you had gone shooting.' ' I may go out later in the day, to save ap- 76 STILL WATERS. pearances/ said Evelyn ; ' but the truth was, I had no desire to ride with Isabel Lennox/ ' I thought/ said Clara, ' that I was con- sulting your inclinations in proposing it/ ^ Very benevolent of you ; but, as it happens, my inclinations lead me to pass the morning with you. And so I have come/ Clara^s eyes sparkled with the light of tri- umph, tempered, however, by some gentler feel- ing, as she said — ' I must say, Evelyn, that you have treated Isabel excessively ill/ ' Not so ill as you have treated her brother/ ' T do not know what you mean,^ said Clara, with rising colour. ' Then I will make my meaning clear. You care as little for David Lennox as I do for Isabel ; and it is time this child's play should cease. We were children in years when first I said that you should be my wife, yet we were in earnest. I am in earnest now, and I claim your promise.^ Evelyn had not misconstrued the nature of his cousin's sentiments, veiled as they were by her indifierent and flighty manner. The con- viction of his indifference had only riveted her affections more securely, and now she could STILL WATERS. 77 scarcely believe her own exceeding happiness. When Evelyn drew her to his side, she did not withdraw from his embrace, but hid her face on his shoulder, and burst into tears. Isabel came down habited at twelve o'clock, and found her brother waiting for her very dis- consolately. He complained that Clara had not been in the drawing-room since breakfast, and that he had seen no one but Sir John, who had looked in an hour ago, and informed him that he would ride with them as far as the farm. A message that the horses were at the door brought Sir John from the study, his open countenance beaming Avith satisfaction; but the cause did not transpire until they had ridden some way along the avenue. And then he said abruptly — ' I have been quite taken up all the morn- ing, for the thing is onty just settled ; and I believe Clara will be best pleased that you should hear it from me.' Isabel instantly divined the truth ; but David said, with perfect unconsciousness — ' I fancied that there must be some family crisis, from the unusual calm which reigned in the drawing-room.' Sir John felt relieved, imagining that David 70 STILL WATERS. was prepared for the communication he had to make. ^ Then_, perhaps^ you were in Evelyn's con- fidence. No one could be more surprised than I was to hear of his attachment, and no less, that it was returned by Clara.' An exclamation broke from David, brief and stormy ; but as he rode on IsabeFs other side, she trusted that it was unheard by Sir John, as well as the hoarse whisper in which he added, laying his hand on her horse's neck — ^ In the name of Heaven_, Isabel, what does he mean T Isabel's first thought was for her brother. For herself she felt that the words which had fallen from Evelyn's own lips exhausted the capacity of after suffering. Without daring to look towards David, she asked, with a face of rigid calmness — ' I don't quite understand. Sir John. Is Clara engaged to Captain Gascoigne ?' 'Even so. No one can accuse Clara of trifling this time ; for as soon as Evelyn had spoken, they came down to me. "We talked it all over, and I had no peace till it was settled. Certainly, Clara might have done better ; but her heart was set on it, and there STILL WATERS. 79 was no more to be said. It seems that slie and Evelyn have loved each other from child- hood/ Again Sir John paused^ and what was Isabel to say ? Da\id did not help her^ and she forced her parched lips to utter the words from which her sonl revolted as false and hollow. ^ Then it is no secret_, and I may wish Clara joy.' ' Yes ; there is no use making a mystery, even though the marriage may not take place at once. Evelyn thinks of going back to his duty for a few months ; but of course he must seU out before they marry, for it would never do for my little Clara to follow the camp. So there will be a step for you, Lennox.^ The last words were spoken with benign com- placency, as if such substantial consolation must outweigh the disappointment of any visionary hopes. David did not undeceive him, and he presently resumed : ^ [Many of our fiiends will think that Clara might have made a more brilliant marriage, and so indeed she might, if she had so chosen. But I must confess that my feudal affection for this old place inclines me to overlook other objections for the sake of seeing it and the 8o STILL WATERS. name go together. And I know no one so universally popular as Evelyn/ While Sir John spoke, David employed himself in checking and spurring his horse, until the thorough-bred animal was chafed into an almost ungovernable temper, and fearless as Isabel was in general, she could not restrain an exclamation of dismay — ' Oh, David, please take care V ' What matter V he answered, fiercely ; and Sir John misconstrued his impatience, or thought it best to do so. ' You and Prince are equally eager for a gallop,^ he said, ^ and you need not scruple to be off, for I turn up to the farm here. In my younger days I have had many a scamper up that green slope/ ^ Come, then, Isabel,^ said David ; and he started at such a reckless pace, that Isabel was soon breathless and exhausted, and she checked her horse, declaring that she could go no far- ther. David turned upon her a face as colour- less as when he began this wild career, and said, ^ You did your congratulations well.^ ' I was forced to say something,^ said Isabel, ' and I was partly prepared.^ ' And you did not tell me.^ STILL WATERS. 8 1 ' I knew nothing of Clara^ and it was only yesterday that Captain Gascoigne informed me of his intentions/ ' They loved each other from childhood V said David, the words escaping from between his set teeth ; ^ truly, such constancy is admir- able ! She loved him — the very word is pro- faned when it is taken within her lips. And for Gascoigne — such genuine feeling as he may have once possessed, was long since frittered away in a succession of idle flirtations.^ Isabel shivered, so that the slight riding- whip almost escaped from her grasp ; but she recovered it, and her emotion was unheeded by her brother — he could think only of his own wrongs. ' It was first and only love,' he continued. ' I trusted so entirely, believing her to be bright and pure, faultless, and my own. One little hour ago I was happy in the assurance of her affection, and now all is blighted. I shall never trust woman more !' ' I know what it must be,^ said Isabel. ' You know what it is. Now I know the cause of your depression, and I do not wonder, for I too was deceived, and fancied that Gas- coigne's heart was touched at last, and that he VOL. II. G 8a STILL WATEKS. was in earnest in his pursuit. Yet, Isabel_, we do not suffer equally, for Gascoigne is not, cannot be to you what she has been to me — justifying any infatuation by her bright grace and winning ways/ Isabel was silent ; she felt both each had invested their idol with hues of their own fancy ; the illusion was past, and the awaken- ing sufficiently bitter. David only spoke again to assert the impossibility of remaining under the same roof, or even in the same neighbourhood with Clara. He said that he should join the depot immediately, and Isabel did not attempt to dissuade him from this intention. The servant informed them, as they dis- mounted, that Miss Gascoigne was at luncheon, and David threw the reins to the man, and ran up-stairs to his own room without bestow- ing a look or word on Isabel. So she repaired alone to the dining-room, feeling that, though a man may forego his luncheon when he is crossed in love, it would be considered too strong a measure for a woman to take. Evelyn was there, sitting beside his cousin, and not, as usual, at the opposite end of the table. His manner was easy and pleasant as ever, STILL WATERS. 83 and not unduly excited bv bis brilliant pro- spects ; but Clara looked restlessly^ feverisbly happy, her eyes glowing like stars_, her cheeks tinged with colour of almost too deep a shade for beauty. She looked up with nervous quickness; but she was reassured by IsabeFs composure_, and even doubtful whether Sir John had fulfilled his promise of imparting the fact of her engagement. ' T hardly expected you so soon/ she said, after waiting a moment for Isabel to speak first. 'TVe rode fast, and kept within the park gates/ replied Isabel. ' Has Lennox come home V Evelyn asked ; and Isabel said ' Yes/ adding that he did not want any luncheon. ' He is a wise man/ said Evelyn, pushing back his chair ; ' a cigar would be more to the purpose. So you will find me in the colon- nade, Clara, when you are inclined for a walk.' He left the room, and the tightening sense of sufibcation at IsabeFs heart was relieved by his absence; she looked up, and could breathe freely. 'Perhaps you have not seen papa,^ said Clara, after an embarrassed silence. G 2, 84 STILL WATERS. ' Yes ; Sir Joliii has told us ; but I did not know whether the matter was so far declared that I ought to say anything about it. Be- sides, Clara/ continued Isabel, her constrained tone insensibly melting into one of impassioned earnestness, ' you must feel how difficult — how impossible it is for me to do so. I do not speak of myself; all that is past, as though it had never been. But if you think of David, you will not ask me to wish you joy.^ ^Does Mr. Lennox care so much?' said Clara, with an air of unconsciousness which was not wholly affected; for, in truth, such compunction as she had been at leisure to feel was bestowed on Isabel. Too indignant to reply, Isabel gathered up the sweeping folds of her riding-skirt, and said that she should go to Buth. ' Stop one moment,' Clara said, imploringly; ' promise that you will not make Buth quite hate me. I care very little what other people say, but I don't want her to give me up.' ' You may tell your own story,' said Isabel. ' No, that will not do, either. I have ho- vered in and out, and asked after her head, without ever finding courage to begin ; so you STILL WATERS. 85 may go first_, and I will follow^ to clear up dis- crepancies/ Isabel turned awav^ and chid the faint heart which inclined her to linger in the corridor or retreat to her own room. All must be told to E/Uth before the wave closed over it for ever, and she would tell her now, if she was fit to bear it ; so she opened the door of her sister's room and went in. Ruth was dressed, and lying on the couch ; and she said, in answer to her sister's inquiries, that her headache was nearly gone. Isabel sat down and took off her hat, so that her curls might fall down and shade her face in tangled luxuriance ; but even her attitude expressed dejection, and Ruth said, gently— ^ You are not happy here, Isabel ?' 'Are you?' she replied; and Ruth said, with a grave smile — ' Happiness is comparative, and I should at least be happier if you would tell me what you wish. After all, I believe there is much to be said for this cottage of Sir John's.' ' Oh no, no,' said Isabel, vehemently ; ' let us go home.' ' Back to Holmdale V 86 STILL WATERS. ^ Anywhere but here. There is no use keep- ing back the truth, and you foresaw some such end long ago. Ruth, he never loved me ; and whether true to Clara or no, he is equally false to me.^ ' To Clara V ^ He is engaged to Clara.^ ' Poor child V said Kuth, laying her hand on Isabel's throbbing temples ; but she withdrew from the light caressing touch as if it seared her brow. ' You need not pity me ; I can bear it ; and just now I think most of David. A month ago it might have been different : it would have broken my heart or driven me wild to learn what I now know. But since we have seen death, and felt its power and its peace, it seems strange and pitiful that these earthly cares should touch us so nearly as they do.' ^ It is not for long,' said Ruth, softly ; *^ and each fresh trial teaches us to look and long for the haven where we would be.' ' Yet some people are happy.' ' And you have great capacity for happiness, and are not yet so old that you need despair. Bright days may come, though not of our seeking.' STILL WATERS. 87 ' I don't care to seek them/ said Isabel ; '' I would rather not look for\yard^ if only I can escape from the past. But let us go home, for I cannot quite bear to see him and Clara toge- ther, and David is still more impatient. You cannot guess, Ruth, how bitterly disappointed he is, for you did not see what encouragement Clara gave him to the very last. And now she asks whether he cares V ' Oh, Isabel !' said Clara, coming in as she spoke, ' I told you not to misrepresent me.^ ^ I repeated your very words,^ said Isabel, subsiding at once into the tone of disdainful calmness which pained Ruth more than her unrestrained expression of feeling. And it was, in truth, so difficult to sustain, that she was glad to comply with her sister's advice to go and take ofi' her habit. ^ Which shows great magnanimity,^ Clara observed, ' since the field is thereby left open to me. But I will be patient if you like to take me to task.' ^ It is not worth while,' said Ruth. ^Do not say that. It is ungrateful not to care what becomes of me, when I have just had my first quarrel with Evelyn because he spoke slightingly of you.' 88 STILL WATEKS. At that moment Euth felt that it was as hisrh an honour as she could receive to be slighted by Evelyn Gascoigne ; and Clara read her thoughts^ and said with pique — ^ After all, if you think so ill of Evelyn and myself, you ought to rejoice that you have es- caped the double connection/ 'And so lightly, Clara, you can speak of your own heartless coquetry?' ' I am sorry — as sorry as I can be about anything just now — that Mr. Lennox is so much disappointed, and I should not have gone on in that way if T had dared to hope that Evelyn really cared for me. As it was, I determined to prove to him and myself that I cared as little ; and when you call me heart- less, you cannot guess how my heart used to pant and throb when Evelyn passed me by with his cool, disdainful air, showing that he saw through my efforts to be unconcerned^ and only despised and ridiculed them/ 'And, thinking of him as you did, you en- couraged the passion of another !' ' I lilved Mr. Lennox very well ; I wished to like him better ; and, at all events, I wished to have done with Evelyn. And so, as I told him this morning, he spoke only just in time; STILL WATERS. 89 for ^vlien I fouucl that he had been setting papa against such an imprudent marriage, I was quite resolved to prove how little I regarded his opinion. You need not look so indignant, Ruth ; for, after all, I only followed his lead, and YOU donH seem to resent Isabels wrongs half so much/ ' Because I loved you, Clara.^ Clara^s eyes glittered with smiles and tears : 'And you will go on lo\dng me, in spite of yourself, and of all I have done to vex you. You will not give me up now.' ' Your own instinct,^ said Ruth, gravely, ' must teach you the impossibility of meeting as before. Isabel shall not be exposed to the pain and humiliation of seeing Captain Gas- coigne in his new relations.' 'And so you mean to drop the acquaintance altogether V 'We must be beholden to you for house- room to-night, and then we shall go home.' ' But you cannot prevent my coming to see you.' ' No,' said Ruth, ' I cannot prevent you from following your self-willed ends, at the cost of any suffering to others.' Clara was deeplv wounded. 90 STILL WATERS. ^ This from you, Euth/ she saicl_, ^ who pro- fess to be better and more charitable than the rest of the workl P ' I never made such a profession, Clara ; but you must suffer me to speak some of the irri- tation I feel, when I see the suffering brought upon David and Isabel — all I have left on earth to love/ '\\^e "svill not talk any more about it,^ said Clara, pouting ; ' I shall go and walk with Evelyn, since you say such disagreeable things/ However, she still lingered, and presently threw her arms round Ptuth. ' Dear Ruth ! If / say that I am sorry, will not you say that you are glad ? No one cares for me as you have done ; and I did hope for one little word to show that you enter into my happiness/ Kuth was touched, and kissed the soft cheek, so lovingly pressed against her own, though she spoke gravely as before. ' You ask too much, Clara, knowing at whose cost your happiness is attained.^ ' T loved him so much,' said Clara ; ' I don't believe that he cares for me in the same way, and yet I could not give him up to Isabel/ There was a shade of bitterness in her light STILL WATERS. 9 1 tone ; but since Euth did not contradict her, slie was eager to retract lier words — ' Thongli, after all, Ruth, you do not know him in the least, and cannot guess how much feeling may lie beneath his insouciant manner. You are often cold and reserved enough yourself/ ' It would take too long to prove the points I may have in common with Captain Gas- coigne,^ said Ruth, smiling faintly ; ^ for I really cannot talk any more. My headache is coming on, and I have still another confidence to receive.^ ' Mr. Lennox T said Clara, looking con- scious and amused, as if her penitence was not very deep. ' You must tell him how sorry I am, if that will do him any good.^ She flitted away, and was quite charmed to find Evelyn impatient of her long delay, and accusing her of losing the best part of the afternoon. Yery reluctantly David complied with the request sent through Isabel, that he would come and see Ruth ; and there was a change of countenance at any allusion to the name of Gascoigne, which deterred her from approach- ing the subject. But, after sitting for awhile in moody silence, he said abruptly — gz STILL WATERS. ^ I suppose Isabel told you that I mean to go off to York to-morrow.' ' Yes ; and that was why I particularly wished to see you/ ' You need not try to persuade me to stay, or to sacrifice anything to appearances. She has shown herself reckless of what may be said or thought of her levity of conduct,, and for me a little more contempt matters not. I only know that I am pining to escape from this place.' ^ And all I wish is, that you should take Isabel with you. Your leave does not expire until the first of November, and the intervening fortnight might be spent at the Lakes, as you once proposed. I am so anxious to spare her the pain of hearing the story canvassed in Holmdale, as it will be, when it first tran- spires.' David was averse to the plan, for he was in no humour for pleasure seeking, and found a rather perverse satisfaction in the prospect of returning to uncongenial companions and the discomforts of a barrack life. But his mood changed when Isabel entered, looking tired and spiritless, and evincing no interest in the dis- cussion. She said that she would rather be STILL WATERS. 93 quiet, aud that it -would not be worse at Holm- dale than elsewhere. ' It will be a great deal worse/ said David. ' I "will not be such a selfish wretch as to leave you a prey to the impertinent curiosity of all your dear friends. TTe will start on our travels together, and we shall at least be good com- pany for each other.^ Isabel smiled tearfully, and sufiered her objections to leaving Ruth alone in the Red House to be overruled. David resolved to return to Holmdale that night to collect his things, and he went to inform Sir John of his intentions, and was two miles on his road before Captain Gascoigne and Clara returned from their pleasant saunter among the green alleys of the garden. Evelyn was sufficiently aware of his practice of throwing his posses- sions headlong into a portmanteau, to smile a little at such elaborate forethought ; but he made no remark, and possibly he was as much relieved as Clara to avoid a meeting. Ruth tried to persuade heifeelf and Isabel that she was able to go down to dinner ; but before the time came her headache had re- turned with such force that she could not leave the sofa. So Isabel went down alone, and 94 STILL WATERS. talked at least as mucli as her companions. This projected tour was a great resource; and Evelyn^ Avho was well acquainted with the Lake country^, wrote down the names of the inns and other useful facts. But when Clara went into Isabels deserted room on the following morn- ings she found that the paper on which the information was written, had been torn up, and twisted into allumettes. David had come to fetch her before the family was astir_, and later in the day Ruth retm'ned to her desolate home; STILL WATERS. 95 CHAPTER VII. Signora Eleanora did not make one of tliat numerous sisterhood who use their own sorrows as a cluL, with which to knock down other people's spirits. Doctor Antonio. "pUTH looked anxiously for her sister's re- -'-*' turn^ and there Tvas no effort in the cheerfulness with which she greeted her arrival. Isabel was tearful ; but so she must have been if she had never known Evelyn Gascoigne^ for she thought of the last coming home, as well as of former short absences, when her mother's pale face had lighted up with pleasure to meet her entrance. Xow there was but one to wel- come her, and the sense of bereavement came upon her with the force of a fresh grief. After tea, however, when they sat down for an un- disturbed talk, she told her adventures plea- santly, if not with much spirit, and then she demanded Ruth's news. 'I believe I wrote everything as it hap- pened,' said Ruth ; ' I must say that my letters were longer than yours.' g6 STILL WATERS. ' I know mine were meagre/ replied Isabel, 'but my ideas could not flow upon paper; and I was generally too tired when we got to our inn to have many left. It is strange how things turn out ; I used to look forward to such an expedition with David as only too delightful to come to pass, and now we went through it as a necessary task/ 'Yet not without enjoyment/ said Ruth; ' and at any rate it will be pleasant to re- member/ ' Perhaps. At least, I shall like some of the best things we saw all the better for their sad associations. Our brightest morning was at Coniston, so still and clear that the reflections on the lake were unbroken, and the colouring of the trees was gorgeous. As we lay on the hill- side, David went over the story of his wrongs ; how much he had loved her, and how his whole life was blighted. And while we were talking, the wind changed, and a mist came up and blotted all the view, so that I could not help thinking of those lines : But rosy clouds that morning brings Ere noon may deepen into thunder. And life's dark stream has sterner things Than silver lilies growing under.' STILL WATERS. 97 E/Uth made no reply^ and after a few mo- ments^ silence Isabel spoke again. ' You did not tell me everything, Kutli. For I suppose you have seen Clara ?^ ' Yes^ once or twice/ ' And is she happy ?^ ' In a certain sense. I did not think it pos- sible for her to be so much in earnest.^ ' You mean/ said Isabel,, ' that she loves him too well for her own happiness.^ Kuth looked grieved, and unwilling to reply. ^ I thought, dear/ she said, ^ that we had agreed not to speak of the past.' ' Only this once/ said Isabel, clasping her hands tightly together. 'I know that I am very weak, but all this while I have thirsted so much to know. Are they still here T 'Captain Gascoigne goes off to Gibraltar this week.' ^1 am so thankful that David is at the depot, and that they will not meet at present, for he is very bitter against him, much more than against Clara. The letter you forwarded to Keswick was from another of the officers. Captain Newry, who had heard of this engage- ment, but not of course that David had any interest in it. He asked whether we knew the VOL. II. H 98 STILL WATERS. lady^ and said that at any rate it was a good speculation / and IsabeFs proud lip curved, 'for sometliing had transpired lately to show that Captain Gascoigne was very much embar- rassed ; and I do believe^ R-uth, that that was his real motive, and that he really does not care for her.^ ' That does not make his conduct more ex- cusable/ said Kuth. And Isabel answered shortly, ' I do not wish to excuse him/ Ruth sighed, and attempted to lead the con- versation into a fresh channel. ' You have never commented on our move to Bean-street, Isabel. Since you and David refused to have a voice in the matter, I was forced to let the Doctor decide, and he was in favour of our taking the old house, since it has stood empty so long that we could have it on our own terms. There is to be a break at the end of the first six months, so that we can flit again if we like; and when the rooms are re- papered, and filled wdth our own things, they will not look so gaunt and dreary as they did in Mrs. Clinton^s day. You perceive I have begun to pack up such of our possessions as we mean to take, for we ought to move next week.^ STILL WATERS. 99 ^To be succeeded by the Dunns_, which is rather grievous. Only think how those children will run riot over my flower-beds^ and harry the birds^ nests^ which I have protected from old Joe ever since we took to gardening to- gether/ ^ For your sake old Joe will protect them now/ said Ruth. ' Mr. Dunn has promised to take him on. He has been very good-natured in all arrangements of taking over the house^ and offered to let us stay till Christmas^ if it would be more convenient. But I thought that we might as well move at once.'' ' I suppose so/ said Isabel_, listlessly. ^ I was afraid you would not like the Bean- street house, but it was necessary to decide on something. Have you anything better to sug- gest V ' Not in Holmdale, for all houses are much alike except our own. But I cannot quite see Avhy we should settle here when we have all the world before us. I cannot tell you how my heart sank when we came to the lamp at the turnpike, and then rattled over the stones. And we have no tie here.^ '■ There is the churchyard/ said Ruth, softly : but she repented her words when she perceived H % XOO STILL WATERS. their effect on Isabel. She hid her face, and said, with a convulsive sob — ' Oh, Ruth ! you may well think me selfish and unfeeling to have forgotten that/ 'You had not forgotten it, dear; and it is because you feel so strongly, that this place seems so intolerable. I don^t mean that the thought should influence us, if there were any reason for leaving Holmdale ; but since our lot is cast here, it seems like impatience to seek to change it merely because things do not go smoothly just now. If at the end of the six months ' ' Please don't say any more about it,' said Isabel ; ^ I was only fretful and impatient. And I have still some dropped stitches to pick up, for you never told how the Dyne Court news was taken here.' 'It made an impression, of course,' said Ruth, not knowing whether to admire or de- plore the hardihood with which Isabel chose to face the dreaded subject; 'but the interest has subsided already. Miss Perrott, who may be considered an index of Holmdale opinions, could talk of nothing yesterday but the new master, Mr. Mayne. She says that the Doctor has set- STILL WATERS. lOI tied him here, nominally as extra master, but really that he may do some of the parish work which the Vicar leaves undone. Mr. Mayne has begun energetically to map out the town into districts, and the ladies are in many minds about undertaking them ; so I shall put in my claim at once for a good slice of the Netherton, where the people look so squalid and neglected. And then, dear, we shall have new ties to Holmdale.' Isabel tried to take equal interest in the scheme, but her attention soon flagged; only when Ruth again quoted Miss Perrott she roused herself to say — ' Do you get all your information at second- hand, Kuth ? I should have expected the Doctor to confide his plans to you.^ ' I have not seen much of the Doctor lately,^ said Ruth, vexed with herself for colouring, though it did not attract her sister's attention, ' and we have always had some business to talk over.' In truth, their intercourse had been scanty and unsatisfactory, and only marked by in- creasing constraint, since Dr. Berkeley's dread of transgressing the prescribed conditions de- lOZ STILL WATERS. prived him of all ease^ although he uncon- sciously gathered hope^ which he feared to dis- sipate by any premature declaration. For a whole week after IsabeFs return, the Gascoigne livery was not seen in Holmdale, — an event of such rare occurrence as to justify the gossips of the place in shaking their heads over the unfortunate faculty evinced by the Lennoxes for destroying their own prospects. '^ There is poor Ruth/ Miss Perrott said, con- fidentially ; ' she never held up her head after that misguided young Clinton absconded with five or six hundred pounds^ — the sum increased every year at a usurious rate of interest — ^he was unworthy of her in every way, and now Isabel has been equally foolish in aspiring to marry as much above her real station. It was quite extraordinary that Ruth should suffer her to go on as she did ; and not for want of warn- ing, either, for I happen to know that some people spoke to her seriously on the subject.^ And Miss Perrott puckered up her withered little face, complacent in the consciousness of her superior sense and foresight. Ruth and Isabel were duly grateful for the respite they enjoyed, although Ruth had al- ready guarded against any intrusion from Dyne STILL WATERS. I03 Courts by directions that Sally slionld admit no one. In fact_, tlieir rooms were no longer in a condition to receive visitors, and their time was fully occupied in transferring books and fm^niture to Bean-street, and disposing them in order in their new abode. E/Uth aimed at making the parlour a minia- ture edition of the cheerful and spacious sitting- room at the Red House, and she was congratu- lated on her success. Even Isabel, who watched her proceedings with languid surprise, smiling at her anxiety to place the sofa and table in the same relative position to each other, ad- mitted that when the fire was lit, and the cur- tains drawn, it would be almost possible to believe themselves at home. But from Ruth herself, no change in the outward aspect of the room could shut out the recollection of its former inmates. She still pictured to herself the tall, angular form and rigid features of Mrs. Clinton, as she sat at work, and Jasper's boyish figure, bending over his books, or, as she had last seen him, crushed with grief and shame, after receiving the intelligence of his mother's death. She did not shrink from such associations, in which there was a pain so akin to pleasure that she would have felt to blame I04 STILL WATimS. iu moving to the house, if she had not referred the decision entirely to Dr. Berkeley. Ruth had discontinued all invalid habits on her return to Holmdale, and a motlicr^s eye -was wanting to discover how unequal her strength and spirits were to the strain she put upon them. Isabel, ^^ho was now her first thought, was too much absorbed by her own thoughts to discover how intent her sister was to spare her' from whatever was irksome or painful, although she was sometimes seized with a fit of vehement remorse on perceiving at the end of the day that Ruth was completely spent by fatigue and headache, and she would atone for her negligence by a good deal of su- perfluous activity. STILL WATERS. 1 05 CHAPTER YIII. Still onward winds the weaiy way : I with it : for I long to prove Xo lapse of moons can canker love, Whatever fickle tongues may say. In ATemoriam. T70E, the third time in one day Ruth was -*- traversing, with slow and languid steps, the way leading from the Red House to Bean- street, when the sound of wheels, seldom heard in that narrow back street, made her look up ; and she was scarcely surprised to recognise the light carriage and ponies decked with gay trappings, which were always driven by Clara or a favoured companion, and in this instance it was a relief to discover that the reins were held by herself. 'Yes, I am alone,' said Clara, reading her thoughts with characteristic quickness. ^ Eve- lyn has gone to Scarborough, and we follow in two days for a family gathering — rather ap- palling, is it not? But one comfort is that they know already nearly all the evil there is I05 STILL WATERS. to learn of me — or, perhaps^ rather more. So I intended to solace myself by a talk with you, at any rate, and now it is absolutely neces- sary. I stopped at the Red House, and then started in pursuit. Now please get in.-' ^ It is not worth while for the few steps I have to go/ said Euth. ^ To Bean-street ? I fall into a little frenzy of wrath and impatience when I think that you are to be immured in that dungeon, when you might have revelled in the rural beauties of our charming cottage. Are you not afraid of being haunted V '^Not at alV said Ruth, gravely. ^Please don^t keep me, Clara, for I have so much to do. We are to move to-morrow.^ ' Still you must spare me one little half hour — ^just to drive along the road and back,' said Clara. ' You will think it worth while, when you hear the great news I have to tell.' Deeper shades of care gathered on Ruth's anxious brow, as she asked, with sudden alarm — ' Is it about Da\dd ? We have not had a line from him since he parted from Isabel.' ^ Get into the carriage and you shall hear,' replied Clara ; and as Ruth complied with her desire, she flourished her whip with an air of STILL WATEES. 107 triumph. ' No^ it is not about David. I will tell you more when we get off the stones.^ K/Uth sat silent; and as soon as they turned out of the town into a road sodden and wet with decaying leaves, Clara spoke with another glittering smile. ' I should like to tease you a little. You look so sedate and unconscious. My news concerns one about whom you used to care more than about David.' Maidenly dignity forbade Ruth to utter the name which trembled on her lips, and her face was expressionless in its enforced repose. ' You know who I mean, Ruth, though you are too discreet to speak ; and I know that you have never quite forgiven my behaviour to Mr. Clinton. But we shall not be rivals now.' ' Clara, what do you mean ?' Ruth asked, in a hoarse whisper. ' Only this. Mr. Dunn came post haste to Dyne Court this morning to tell that 200Z., some odd pounds and pence, making up the interest for the four years, has been paid into papa's account. ]Mr. Dunn was most charmed by the trait of paying interest — so charac- teristic of the young man's business-like habits and scrupulous honesty in making restitution. I08 STILL WATERS. Any one might have paid the principal^ he said. Now, is my news worth hearing T ' But about Jasper himself V said Ruth, struggling with a choking sensation in her throat. ' We know no more than you, possibly not so much ; at least, Mr. Dunn hinted that you might give some clue if you chose. He is determined to ferret out the mystery, which is now obscure enough. The money was paid by some London bank, an acknowledgment re- quested, and a memorandum added to the effect that all inquiries would be in vain. But, at least, you can tell in what quarter of the world he is to be found.' * I know nothing/ said Ruth. Clara looked disappointed for a moment, biit observed, on reflection — ^It is just as well; for in that case every- thing is left to my imagination. I cannot quite determine whether he has been digging gold in California or Australia ; but it does not much signify. He will make his appearance some day with a long beard, a revolver, and a bowie-knife, and constitute you guardian of his gold sacks. Now, seriously, Ruth, don't you think he will come back ?' STILL WATERS. I09 ' No/ said Rutli, slowly. ' If the dread of dishonour has exiled him all these years, he will not now return. For the stain still rests on his name, and people will say that he admits his guilt in the act of making restitu- tion.' ' Of com'se he took the money ; but that is such an old story now that it makes no im- pression, and there is something chivalrous and romantic in giving it back, especially since he probably wants it much more than papa. I believe that he has only Diade restitution, as you call it, because it might not otherwise be convenient to appear in Holmdale, even with the disguise of beard and bowie-knife. But I declare that you don^t look at all elated, though I thought that I had for once found out something to please you.' ''I am glad,' said Ruth, trying to smile, ^ and it was kind of you to come and tell me. But now, please, let us drive back to Bean- street ; or, if it is inconvenient^ I can get out and walk/ Clara turned her ponies' heads, and before they re-entered the town she drew aside the crape veil which intercepted her \dew of Ruth's featm-es, and she ascertained that, though paler no STILL WATERS. than usualj there was no other trace of agitation. ' I thought/ she said, ^ that you might be thinking of Jasper Cliuton_, and that made you so silent; but now I know you look so cold and stern because you still bear malice^ and cannot endure to be with me^ even for five minutes.^ ^No, indeed, it is not that/ said Ruth, earnestly. ' Otherwise/ continued Clara, ' you would have consented to take the cottage, instead of settling in that doleful house. How do you think Isabel will get on without a garden V ' I am afraid she will miss it ; but it cannot be helped.^ ' It might have been helped. I intended papa to give you at least an acre of ground, besides grass for a cow.' ^ I know that you wished to give us much more than I should have felt comfortable in accepting.' ' That is just as I said. You dislike me too much to let me help you in any way, and you must confess that you took this house in a fit of perversity.' STILL WATERS. . Ill ' / did not take it. The Doctor thought that we could not do better/ 'The Doctor!^ repeated Clara. 'That re- minds me of an absurd report which Evelyn picked up somewhere, that the Doctor intends to supplant the gold-digger. It must only be a fancy of his own, for I am sure that you could never fall in love with a man whose coat is so badly made.^ ' Ah, Clara V said Ruth, touching her crape trimmings with a trembling hand, ' if nothing else, surely these should teach you that such flippant words are out of season.^ ' I am sorry,^ said Clara ; ' there must be some fatality to make me say whatever most vexes you. You will be glad to hear that we are going away for at least two months.' Ruth did not deny it; yet she returned Clara^s parting caress with warmth, feeling that her levity could not even now wholly estrange her from the place she had won in her affections. She turned into the house, almost glad to find no leisure to analyse the thoughts and feelings hurrying through her brain. The upholsterer^s man was awaiting her directions about the final arrangement of the furniture, the carrier demanded payment for the con- 113 STILL WATEKS. veyance of tlieir goods, and Sarah claimed her attention for a list of grievances, beginning with the darkness of the kitchen, and ending with the black-beetles in the scullery. ' We have never been accustomed to such things,^ she said^ severely ; ^ and, considering how high Mrs. Clinton^s Martha held her head, it is very discreditable to the family.' Ruth could only say^ in extenuation, that Martha did not build the kitchen^ and that the black-beetles might have founded their colony since she gave up the house^ two years ago. In compliance with Sally's urgent entreaties, who was still working among the house-linen by the light of one flaring candle, Ruth set out to return home soon after dark. Sadly tired, and harassed in mind and body, she passed through the quiet streets which led to the old house that was to be their home no more. It was another thought, however, which brought the tears to her eyes and the expression of wistful sadness to her mouth, and caused her to throw a startled glance on the few persons she met or passed, though the growing darkness made it almost impossible to distinguish their features. STILL WATEES. II3 ' He may be near/ she tliouglit^ ' and yet so far from me. That fancy is so wearing, though I ought to be satisfied, since I have all I craved for in the knowledge that he is living and free from debt. I must thank God, and be patient/ The outer air was soft and still, yet Isabel was cowering over the fire iii the dismantled room, and Ruth could see the tears glistening on her cheek. ' I was just coming to look for you, Ruth,^ she said, remorsefully. ^ I should not have stayed here if I had known there was so much to do.' ' I have not been at work all this time,' said Ruth ; ' I was delayed by Clara.' ' I have had some society too,' said Isabel ; ' Mr. Dunn came in soon after you left, and was rather disposed to follow you to Bean- street ; but I did not encourage the idea, for I imagine that it was only some question about the house, which he thought me too young and inexperienced to answer.' ' Most likely it was to teU me what I have just heard from Clara,' said Ruth; and she pro- ceeded to tell of the recovery of the 200/. Isabel evinced more interest in the matter VOL. II. I 114 STILL WATERS. tlian her sister had done. ' Now/ she said, exultingly, ' you may triumph over the sinister predictions of Holmdale, and Jasper will come to clear himself. And the Doctor will be pleased too — at least I hope so ; but he has been so odd lately that I cannot always follow him. He found me in the garden this afternoon, where I had gone to gather all the flowers which are left ; and I suppose I was looking rather disconsolate, for after one or two dis- jointed remarks, he entreated me to confide in him as a brother. If he had said grandfather, it would have been more to the purpose.* The last words were spoken with a touch of her old playfulness, and Ruth tried to answer with a smile ; but in the effort all self-control was swept away, and she hid her face and burst into tears. She was at no loss to understand the Doctor^s words, and her perception of his meaning was accompanied by an indignant re- vulsion of feeling, as the truth flashed upon her that he was cherishing hopes which no time could enable her to fulfil. ' Mamma, mamma V she said, in broken accents, unheeding IsabeFs passionate entreaties to tell her what she had said to wound her. * Oh, mamma ! what would you have me do ?' STILL WATERS. II5 Isabel was terrified by Ruth^s ungovernable emotion^ and the sight of her uneasiness helped her sister to check her hysterical sobs. ' That will doj dear/ she said^ retaining Isabels hand^ when she was going to fetch a glass of water ; ' I shall not be so foolish again ; only I was tired, and easily overset/ ' But by what V said Isabel^ anxiously. ' I do not know how I have vexed you.^ ' I will tell you/ Ruth said_, after a moment^s hesitation, ' if you care to hear.^ ^ If T care ! but you may well ask, Ruth, for I know that I have been very selfish and forgetful of you. That was the reason you called so piteously on mamma.^ 'Not entirely,^ said Ruth, in a faltering voice ; ' I have tried to do what she wished, and yet it cannot be right to deceive Dr. Berkeley, or to suffer him to deceive himself.^ Isabel was more perplexed than before by this allusion to the Doctor; and her sister went on to explain the matter in a grave, composed way, as if she had no personal interest in it, for her habitual self-possession had been shaken only for a moment, and then resumed its sway. ' You see, Isabel, or at least you might have seen, that Dr. Berkeley wished to make you 1 '2, Il5 STILL WATERS. liis sister by making me liis \^ife. He told mamma^ who wished it also, and so I promised to wait, and he will not press me ; he has scarcely even alluded to it, and I am afraid his for- bearance will only make it more difficult and painful to undeceive him at last. Tor I know that I shall never love him/ Isabel^s natural truthfulness and courage were, in this instance, aided by bitter experi- ence, and she saw but one issue from this dilemma. ^Then you should tell him so at once,^ she said ; ' anything is better than feed- ing false hopes.' ' And you see no difficulty in having to speak first T said Ruth, smiling faintly. ' At least it is not a difficulty which need interfere with what is right. Perhaps the Doctor has a glimmering consciousness that he is in a false position as a lover, for it really is a mistake, considering how paternal his manner always was. At first there will be a little disappointment, but we shall soon return to our old relations, and you will be much more comfortable for having got over the explana- tion.' ^ If it were over,' said Ruth. ' But I am afraid that he is more in earnest, and will feel STILL WATERS. I17 the disappointment more bitterly than you think.' ^ If you really pity him so much/ Isabel began^ rather mischievously ; but she was checked by the expression of pain on her sister's countenance. ^ You must not talk of it, Isabel ; I am very miserable^ but quite resolved. My mind will never alter ; but there is my promise to mamma not to decide hastily.' ' Mamma would wish you to do what is right/ said Isabel; and the simple, straight- forward answer dispelled her sister's doubts. She replied that she would take the first opportunity of putting an end to the present suspense. That opportunity was afforded to her before her resolution had time to falter. The sisters were sitting together after tea, when the Doctoi^s weU-known knock made Ruth start and shiver ; but she only said, ' You wiU not mind taking your work up-stairs / and Isabel gathered her occupations together, and was gone before Dr. Berkeley entered. Ruth scarcely looked up from her work, and he said, nervously — ' I am afraid that you will think me an in- Il8 STILL WATERS. truder on this last evening, when you have so much to do and think of. But since Dunn missed you^ I could not resist coming to tell his news/ ' I am glad that you have come/ said Ruth, quietly; but I have already heard of Jasper Clinton/ ' It must have given you pleasure, although the restitution is almost as mysterious as the former part of the story. Dunn says that Sir John is very desirous to trace Clinton, for the sake of assuring him that everything will be passed over, if he should wish to return and make a fresh start in this country/ ^ It shows great forbearance on Sir John's part to remit the sentence of transportation,' said Ruth, not without bitterness, since her trustful love rebelled against the supposition that such an act of forgiveness was required ; '^but I hardly think that Jasper is likely to avail himself of it/ ' I should not advise him to do so. If he came back to England, even if he settled far from this neighbourhood, he could never be secure from having the story cast up against him. But still I wish that it were possible to trace him.' STILL WATERS. II9 ' So every one says/ answered Ruth^ impa- tiently, ' as if I could help them. Yet I know nothing, and only guess that he went to Ame- rica_, and that is a wide word.' ' I will take care that Dunn does not annoy you with inquiries/ said Dr. Berkeley ; and Ruth was ashamed of her irritation, and con- scious how little she deserved his considerate watchfulness. ^ I did not want to see you about Jasper/ she said, colouring deeply ; and the Doctor caught at her meaning without ventm-ing to acknowledge it. ' Well ?' he said, breathlessly. ' I only wished to say that it seems better to speak plainly, instead of going on as we are now. It is only painful and harassing, and it must come to the same end at last. I know that it is impossible ' ^ Oh, Ruth V exclaimed Dr. Berkeley ; ^ you promised to give me time, and it is cruel to crush my first faint hopes before I have con- fessed them. Any suspense is better than such a certainty; and even if it ends at last in dis- appointment, I alone must bear the blame.^ ' Yet, for my sake,' said Ruth, ^ you must let me recall my word. Think me weak, un- 120 STILL WATERS. grateful ; vet if von knew how it would ligliten other trials to know that I am free ' Dr. Berkeley looked up with a quick, pene- trating glance — ' Ah, Kuth ! had there been no tidings of Jasper Clinton, you would never have exacted this concession ; you would have waited, as you promised/ Kuth covered her face with her hands to hide the indignant blushes. ' It is cruel,' she said, ''to urge that promise on me — wrung from me at a time when I could deny her no- thing. And if Jasper were dead — as he is dead to me — sooner or later my answer must have been the same, though it may be that what I heard to-day forced upon me the truth that I Avas only trifling with one who deserves such love as I shall never feel.' 'At least for me. It is enough; and in time I may be able to thank you for having awakened me so soon from my presumptuous dream, though now it seems hard to part from all which made life sweet. God bless you, dear Ruth ] let me call you so but once before my lips are sealed to that name for evermore.' With gentle force he drew down one of the hands which covered her face, and retained it for a moment in his nervous grasp. Before STILL TVATEKS. 121 Uutli gained courage to look up he was gone, leaving lier perplexed and miserable, and humi- liated in his eyes and her own by the admission which he had wrung from her of the nature of her feelings towards Jasper Clinton. ^And yet it is well/ she thought ; ^ for he must feel con- tempt as well as anger, and when he despises, he must soon cease to love or regret me/ Isabel only waited for the closing of the house-door to come down, her looks full of eager curiosity, which her sister had no heart to satisfy. ' You must not ask me, dear,^ she said ; ' I can only tell you that it is all over, and that I have estranged from us almost the only real friend we had. But we must try to leave all vexing thoughts behind in the old house, and apply ourselves ^with hearts new braced^ to make a fresh start in life.^ 123 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER IX. My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, And every tongue brings in a several tale, And every tale condemns me for a villain. Eichard III. ' T MUST say, Ruth/ said Miss Perrott, look- -^ ing round, ' that you have made the room look very nice, only the Indian cabinet takes up too much space/ ' So it did even in the Red House,^ said Ruth; 'but it was an old friend, and we did not like to part with it/ It was not the first time the criticism had been made and answered, for it was now within a few days of Christmas, and the Lennoxes had been settled in their new abode for more than three weeks. ' You are not so constant to all old friends,^ resumed Miss Perrott; ' at least if there is any truth in the report of some coolness between you and the Doctor. Indeed, there must be something in it, for I met him in the High- street just now, and mentioned that I was STILL WATERS. 1 23 coming here, and he hoped that you were both pretty weU. In old times he would have come to inquire for himself; besides_, he is going away for the Christmas holidays, a thing which never happened before; he has always made such a point of eating his Christmas dinner with you/ ' We are not much disposed for merry- making this year/ said Ruth. ' I am sure that there is nothing merry about the Doctor/ retorted Miss Perrott ; ' people all remark that he is unusually absent and out of spirits, and he is just the sort of man to take a misunderstanding to heart. I suppose it is some foolish jealousy of his appointment to be IsabePs guardian ; she was always so self-willed and impatient of control/ ' It is the last thing you can accuse her of now/ said Kuth, sadly ; ' I only wish that I could see a trace of her old spirits.^ ' She is changed, indeed,^ replied Miss Per- rott, and her tone was somewhat softened; ' but the self-will is the same as ever in giving way as she does. She ought to live with other people instead of roaming over the country by herself: and I donH believe she gives you any help in your parish work.^ 124 STILL WATERS. ^ I have no doubt she Ti-oald if I asked her/ said Ruth. ' Then you ought to ask her. It would be much more wholesome for her than indulging her love of seclusion ; but you always did spoil her/ ^ And now it is too late to mend/ ' I tell you what would rouse her better than anything/ continued Miss Perrott^ whose in- terest in the two sisters was gen\iine^ if not always considerate ; ' and that is a visit from David. He ought to come and help you over Christmas_, which is always a sad time after a loosening of old ties^ as even I could tell you, though it is so long since I have known a family gathering.^ ' Yes_, I wish David could have come/ said Kuth ; ' but I had a line from him to-day to say that there would be no use applying for leave, as so many of the officers are away.' ' He has as good a right as another, and I dare say that he might have got leave if he had chosen to exert himself. But I suppose that he does not like to put himself in the way of Dyne Court again.' ' Dyne Court is empty, you know,' said Ruth ; ' and the Gascoignes do not return be- STILL WATERS. 125 fore Parliament meets^ but go from Scarbo- rough to Loudon/ •^ Oh ! so you still correspond with Miss Gascoigne V ^ Yes ; I heard from her last week/ ^And are she and Captain Gascoigne to- gether V ^ No ; he is with the regiment at Gibraltar. He does not sell out until the marriage takes place in the spring.'' ^ I shall be surprised if it ever takes place at all/ said Miss Perrott. ' At least, Mr. Dunn, who ought to know, seems to think that Cap- tain Gascoigne is quite as volatile in his tastes as the young lady, and that is saying a good deal. I am sure, my dear, that Isabel made a very lucky escape, if she would only think so.^ ^ Indeed,^ said Ruth; ^you don't quite un- derstand what Isabel thinks.' ^ It would be very odd if I did,' rejoined the old lady, tartly, ' since she never says anything. I must confess that I feel hurt by the way she shuns an old friend like me, crossing over the street to avoid speaking to me/ Ruth was aware that any attempt to justify Isabel only aggravated the sense of her mis- demeanours, and she thought it best to change 126 STILL WATERS. the subject. ' Can I do anything for you in the Netherton^ Miss Perrott? I am going on my own account to give out the list for broth, and the day is too cold for you to go in and out of houses/ ^ If Isabel were going with you, I might ask her to do one or two things for me ; but really I have not the conscience to put any more upon you, you look so overworked already/ ' It is quite a mistake to think so. Miss Perrott ; I assure you I never feel tired except when I sit at home/ ^ That is only restlessness,^ said ^liss Perrott, with an oracular shake of the head ; ^ and in addition to everything else, I am inclined to think that you worry yourself about Jasper Clinton. It is very singular that we can dis- cover nothing about him ; but Dr. Berkeley has heard from his friend at New York, who has promised to set inquiries on foot.' ' Has Dr. Berkeley written ?' said Euth, quickly. ' You did not know that ? then absolutely you and the Doctor are not on speaking terms.' ' Yes we are,' said Buth, colouring ; ' but he has not happened to mention this/ * It is very odd ; for he is quite taken up STILL WATERS. 127 about it, and so is Sir John, moved, as Mr. Dunn thinks, by Miss Gascoigne, who took up the matter very eagerly. Among them all they must discover some clue.^ ' But about your broth-tickets,' said Ruth, making another attempt to recall her discursive companion. ' 1 think Mrs. Wood and John Ball are both in your district ; and Mr. Mayne said they were both to be put on the list.' ^ Mr. Mayne is very much deceived in John Ball,' said ^liss Perrott; and, in vindicating her opinion, she forgot the more exciting topics of Jasper Clinton and the Doctor. Ruth had striven hard, and not unsuccess- fully, to create for herself new interests in work- ing among the neglected poor of the district allotted to her ; but it had been up-hill work. Mr. Mayne was young and energetic, and per- haps a little indiscreet, and he had collected his staff of ladies without sufficiently consider- ing whether they would work together; and several of those who had begun with most zeal already discovered that the system of visiting he enforced, together with the meetings at his house, consumed more time than they could spare from domestic duties. Every one thought that Miss Lennox, who had no home ties. 128 STILL WATERS. might undertake one more street; and as she could not resist the appeal made by Mr. Mayne in his distress^ before Christmas came^ almost the whole of the Netherton, in which the poorer inhabitants congregated, had been thrown upon her hands. She had undertaken more than she could accomplish with any satisfaction to her- self; and, as Miss Perrott hinted, she received little assistance from her sister. Isabel began with great spirit, but she was soon discouraged by the nature of the work. The people were unused to be visited, and she was repelled, either by their surly independence, or by clamorous demands for soup and coal- tickets ; and she could not allow that the dis- covery of one or two more promising house- holds repaid them for a long disappointing round, especially since Euth was so easily satis- fied as to think well of a woman who wore a black cap and artificial flowers, and spoke with a pure Loudon accent. So she soon ceased to accompany Ruth with any alacrity, and the elder sister had no heart to interfere with her evident inclination for a solitary walk, and generally declared that she could accomplish the visits by herself. It was one of the occa- sions when E-uth missed Dr. Berkeley's counsel. STILL ^'ATERS. 1 29 He miglit have decided whether it was inju- dicious to indulge Isabel's desire of solitude; and he^ too, she thought, might have discovered that her strength was severely tasked by the duties imposed upon her. ' And yet I could not give them up/ she thought. ' It is better to be weary with too much work than too much thought, and I have even now more time than enough for selfish repinings. I wonder if the Doctor will be as successful in his researches this time as when he wrote to Sydney. I can hardly wish it, for I believe that it would be unmixed pain to Jasper to be brought amongst us again.'' Ruth was startled from these speculations by observing Dr. Berkeley himself on the other side of the street, and she instinctively quick- ened her pace, and drew down her veil. But the Doctor did not as usual second her endea- vom's to avoid a meeting, and he crossed the street after a moment's irresolution, his look and tone deprecating her displeasm'e when he addressed her. ^ I could not,^ he said, ' help asking if I can do anything for you in the town. You seem tired and not fit to walk.' The expression of sympathy for which Ruth VOL. II. K 130 STILL WATERS. had craved a moment before^ was now only embarrassing^ and she answered hurriedly — * Oh, no, I am not tired ; at least, the fresh air is pleasant. And I am only going into the Netherton.^ ' Mayne says that you are his only efficient visitor. But I hope that he does not over- work you.^ ' I like it/ said Ruth ; and then percei^ang that Dr. Berkeley was wounded by her brief reply, she made an effort to throw off con- straint. 'Where are you to pass Christmas, Dr. Berkeley? I hear that you are going away.^ '^I do not know or care,^ he replied. 'I only felt that it would not do to stay here.^ There was another pause, and Ruth con- sidered that Miss Perrott's plain speaking was less harassing than these half sentences. While calculating what streets she must traverse before she could reach the first house in her district, and so free herself from her com- panion. Dr. Berkeley spoke again. ' You might trust me, Miss Lennox. On one point I shall never speak again, and there- fore it seems hard that I should be debarred from all subjects which interest you.^ STILL WATERS. 131 'I know/ Ruth answered, in an unsteady voice, ' tliat you do not even now despise me, or give me up as I deserve ; and I would thank you, if I dared, for your exertions in Jasper^s behalf/ ' You have heard that ?' said Dr. Berkeley ; ^ and you can guess that it is on your account that I am chiefly anxious to ascertain his fate/ ^ Thank you, very much. It would be a relief to know, though it does not really con- cern me. And, after all, certainty is some- times worse than suspense.^ ' True/ said Dr. Berkeley, in a tone which betrayed that he had taken the words home. Ruth hurriedly resumed — ^ I cannot suppose that there is any chance of discovering Jasper in such a place as America after the lapse of so many years.^ ^ So I am afraid my New York friend will say. But, since I wrote to him, it occurred to me that it might be worth while to send him an advertisement to publish in all the leading papers. And I wished to consult you in what form the appeal should be cast, and if it would be too great a liberty to use your initials.' 132 STILL WATERS. * Oh, that would never do/ said Ruth, drawing back. ' And why not, Miss Lennox V ' I mean that it would be of no use. He may have forgotten the initial letters of my name, since I have no claim to his recollec- tion.^ ' No claim ! — when yon have cherished his memory through all these years, and done your utmost to shield his name from dishonour. And yet you are content to believe that he has forgotten your own.^ ' It might be best for both,' said Ruth ; ' but you do not and cannot understand what I mean, and I would rather wait and let things take their course.' 'And you think me only officious to have stirred in the matter V ' Xo, indeed,' said Ruth, tearfully ; ' but I wish that you would not trouble yourself about what I think. I do not deserve_, and I am not worth it.' ' Well, good-bye,' said the Doctor, stopping abruptly at the corner of the street ; and Ruth walked on, with a heart no lighter for a con- versation which had not conduced to place their intercourse on a pleasanter footing than STILL WATERS. I33 before. His exertions to trace Jasper awakened a sense of shame whicli made tlie burden of gra- titude doubly oppressive; she felt that anger and estrangement would have been more tole- rable than such manly and noble forbearance. But she cast the thought aside for the present, reserving it for future meditation^ and applied herself to the work before her with the regular and methodical exactness which had so often provoked Clara Gascoigne's raillery. By the time Ruth reached the last house on her hst it was growing dusk, and the firelight streamed with a ruddy glow through the lat- tice and half-open door. A little maid was rocking the baby^s cradle on the hearth with an elder sister^s proud tenderness, and she said that ' mother was out / but in mother's ab- sence she was disposed to make the visitor welcome, and soon became confidential, un- folding a good deal of family history. Fa- ther's work was slack, and 'taters were dear, so they had only bread and dripping for dinner ; and they all slept down-stairs, as the loft was let to help out the rent. * And have you a lodger now T Euth asked. ' Yes,' said the child, lowering her voice ; ' and the gentleman is at home.' 134 STILL WATEES. Rutli smiled at the term which had so often offended Isabel, who vindicated for herself the privilege of being called a woman, simply as a mark of gentility. ^ Then he is out of work too/ she said. ' He is ill, and so off work ; but mother don't think he ever was given to do much, for his hands are soft and white like the real gentlefolk; and though he has only a fustian jacket, his shirts are finer than father's best.' ^And how does he pay his rent?' Ruth asked, insensibly becoming interested in a story to which she had at first listened out of complaisance for Bessy. ' He promised to pay by the week, and he has been here ten days ; so father spoke to him about it, and he said he should look for work when he was better : and then he gave him a gold ring in pledge — real gold — and made father promise not to part with it. I can show it to you if you like.' ' Your father might not like you to meddle with it,' said Ruth; but the little damsel as- sured her, with a staid and sensible air, that father would not mind ; he had only put it into the tobacco-box on the high chest of drawers, to be out of the children's way. And by climb- STILL AYATERS. 135 ing on the polished arm -settle she succeeded in reaching the treasure in question, and produc- ing it for RutVs inspection. It was a plain seal ring ; and as Ruth leaned forward so as to throw the firelight upon the bloodstone, she perceived that the crest of a talbot^s head was engraved upon it. A strange, wild, and improbable idea darted through her brain : this was the Clinton crest, and she re- minded herself in vain that it was a common device. ^ What is his name V she asked, hur- riedly; but she wondered at her own folly in expecting any satisfaction from the reply. Yet a name so little distinctive as ^ John Brown' gave colom' to the supposition that it might be assumed. ' Is he a tall man ?' ' Yes j a bit taller than father.' ' And what colour is his hair V ' His hair is dark, like yours.' Again Ruth's heart leaped ; she remembered how, in days gone by, Isabel had laid a lock of her hair beside Jasper's, and bade her observe that there was not a shade of difference between them. Bessy Lawes wondered how long the lady meant to stay, and why she continued to sit beside the fire, mechanically mo\ing the 1^6 STILL WATERS. ring up and clown on her slender fing-er; but the result of her meditations presently ap- peared. ' Bessy/ she said^ looking up, ^ would you ask Mr. Brown if he would like to see me ? — since he is ill, and out of work, I might he of use to him.' ' Mother told me to mind baby/ said the little girl, hanging her head. ' I will mind him till you come down,' said Ruth. There was a pause before Bessy found cou- rage to reveal the true cause of her reluctance — ' Please, I think you had best go yourself. Mother says he does not like children, and if we go near the room he speaks so rough-like, and orders us down.' ' I will go myself,' said Ruth ; and Bessy lighted a candle with great alacrity to guide her up the steep and narrow stair. No answer was returned to Ruth's low and uncertain knock ; but when she tried the door, which was fastened, there was a sullen inquiry who was there. 'It is 1/ said Ruth, softly. When she would have told her name, the words died on her lips. Slie waited, and presently there STILL WATERS. I37 T^■as a sound of lieavv steps crossiiiGr the creaking floor; the holt was withdrawn, the door thrown hack, and the owner of the rinj, whoever he might he, stood before her. Ruth was scarcely conscious of a sickening sense of disappointment — it was so soon swal- lowed up in alarm. The dim light of her flickering candle revealed a man of almost gigantic proportions, his naturally powerful frame evidently contracted by Avasting sickness ; liis features were strong, a fierce light gleamed in his hollow eye, and there was something animal in the expression of the mouth. Yet Ruth was haunted by a strange, indefinable resemblance to Jasper Clinton, which made her shiver. She was reassured in observing that not want and care alone, but time, had furrowed the deep lines round the mouth and eyes, and streaked the bushy hair with grey. She re- peated to herself that the likeness existed only in her imagination, and yet at that moment she would have thanked Grod for the certainty that Jasper Clinton was dead. ' ^Tiat do yon want V the stranger asked ; and Ruth was scarcely prepared to reply to the question put in a tone of defiance. ' I A*isit here/ she said, with hesitation ; ^ I • 3^ STILL WATERS. heard you were ill_, and I thouglit you might need help/ ' Have I asked for help T returned the man ; adding with a smile, more repulsive than his rudeness, 'however, I am not one to refuse a good offer. I do want help — money — I am starving with cold and hunger/ Ruth glanced round the little garret, and its appearance hore out his words. There was no fire in the grate, and the keen wind sighed and moaned through the unceiled rafters of the roof, and flapped to ' and fro the tattered cur- tains of the bed, which was literally the only article of furniture in the room, with the ex- ception of a wooden chest and one rickety chair. The Christmas gifts of that day had almost exhausted the contents of RutVs purse, but she pressed the little that remained into the man^s hand, as she said, ' It is all I have with me; you had better make a fire, and come to our house this evening for some broth — three. Bean-street.^ The hand which had greedily closed upon the silver, relaxed its grasp, and Ruth was terrified by the tumult of passion which swept over that haggard face — whether of anger, shame, or remorse she could not tell. STILL WATERS. 139 ' Three, Bean-street V he repeated, thi'ougli his set teeth — ' to hell rather V He wrenched the door from her hand, and secured it on the inside against further intrusion. The interview had been long enough for Ruth. In observing the effect of her last words, the truth had flashed upon her : since it was not Jasper Clinton, it could only be his father, and in his presence she could not breathe freely; she must have leism'e to think, and to determine how to act. She passed hastily through the outer room, where Bessy awaited her return in some anxiety, and only bade her good-night, saying that she should come again on the morrow. Alone, and in the deepening twilight, she hoped to recover some composure ; but it was not to be. She could only restlessly count over the circumstances in favoiu' of her con- viction that this was the elder Clinton. Eveiy- thing confirmed the surmise; the coincidence of the crest, his anxiety to shun observation, the emotion to which her reference to the old house in Bean-street had given rise ; above all, and Ruth shivered at this added proof, the strange resemblance to Jasper, overlaid, yet not wholly defaced, by the traces stamped 140 STILL WATERS. upon his featiuTs of a life of crime and reck- less dissipation. For Jasper^s sake he must not be left in the destitution to which he was reduced ; for his own sake^ also, as Ruth thought^ with pitying tenderness_, since tlio hollow cough still rang in her ears, which betrayed that the hand of death was upon him. Then came a sense of powerlessness, and the craving for counsel by which she was so often visited. She feared to take any step which might lead either to his detection or to his de- parture_, in order to avoid suspicion^ and she felt wholly unequal to the attempt of gaining influence over a man of hardened and desperate character. She began to be afraid, also, that she must soon give way to the feelings of ill- ness against which she had struggled so long. She felt that the shock of the discovery she had just made was hardly enough to account for the lassitude by which she was overpowered, and this languor was accompanied by that peculiar sensation which often precedes illness, when the nerves quiver and the pulses throb with suppressed and latent suffering. There was one alternative, which she em- braced with reluctance, and that was an appeal to Dr. Berkeley. As soon as she returned STILL WATERS. 141 liome^ she dispatclied a note to him, before gmng her aching head the repose it so much needed. ' Bean-street, Tuesday. * Deau Dr. Berkeley, — After parting from you, I went to the Lawes^s cottage in Love- lane, and I found a man lodging there, whom I beheve to be Jasper's father, Mr. Clinton. I did not tell him my suspicions, for he evidently wishes to remain concealed ; nor do I know what I ought to do. He is very ill, if not dying, and in great want. Perhaps you will not mind coming here to-morrow, to advise me what to do. And, even if you do mind, 1 believe you will come, little as I deserve it. ' Yours truly, ^ Ruth Lennox.^ Dr. Berkeley replied by a verbal message, promising prompt compliance ; but when he asked for Miss Lennox on the following morn- ing, he was informed that she was too ill to see him. He was still in parley with Sally, when Mr. Ball came down the stair with an anxious face. ^Yes,^ he said, ' it promises to be a serious illness, and I have no doubt that it has been 142 STILL WATERS. brewing for some time. She has a good deal of fever^ and wandered through the night, and now she is talking incessantly, chiefly of her mother, poor thing, in a confused, incoherent way, which shows what a strain there has been upon the mind. But I still hope to avert brain-fever.^ STILL WATERS. I43 CHAPTER X. A roofless ruin lies my home, For winds to blow, and rains to pour, One frosty night befel, and lo ! I find my summer days are o'er : The heart bereaved, of why and how- Unknowing, knows that yet before It had, what e'en to memory now Eetums no more — no more. A. H. Clough. * A BRAIX fever/ ' the illness has been -^ brewing for some time/ Isabel had been leaning over the balusters to catch Mr. Ball^s words^ and she carried them back with her to the sick room. The sentence almost paralysed her, and abeady she felt so helpless^ shrinking in childish terror from Ruth^s incoherent words^ and yet jealous of suffering any other to share the charge^ and aid in carrying out Mr. Ball^s directions. All was done — the long dark hair cut away from the temples to make way for cooling applications^ every ray of light excluded from the room^ and nothing remained but to sit and watch. 144 STILL WATERS. E/Utli never ceased speaking in the low^ hur- ried tone which betrays the delirium of fever. Her mother's name recurred most frequently, whom she imagined to be lying in the adjoining room, requiring her attendance ; and she en- treated Isabel with piteous earnestness to allow her to rise. But as the attempt to move brought a rush of pain to her head, she sank back on the pillow, saying faintly, ' I cannot go — but shut both doors, lest mamma should be disturbed by the throbbing of my temples V and this delusion availed more to still her rest- lessness than all Isabel's soothing words. To some of her sister's confused sayings Isabel possessed no clue ; she could not under- stand the repeated allusions to the sick man in Love-lane, Huth's anxiety to know if the Doctor had seen him, and if he w^ould keep the secret ; and even in delirium she forbore, with strange self-control, to utter the name that trembled on her lips. Isabel could not trace the connexion between this incident and Jasper Clinton, and indeed she forgot to do so in the painful interest awakened by the revela- tion of the deep yearnings which lay beneath her sister's impassive manner. Conjectures locked up for years within her breast were now poured STILL WATERS. I45 fortli by Ruth without restraint. She said that Jasper was dead — that his spirit was crushed by that sense of irremediable dishonour which makes hfe a living death — that he had returned to make his honour plain — that he still lovedj and would marry Clara. ^And thinking of him as I did/ she continued^ in the belief that she was addressing her mother^ ' you must not think too hardly of my beha- viour to Dr. Berkeley. It was wrong to make the engagement, but it would have been worse to keep itj after the conviction had been brought home that I coukl never forget Jasper, or think of another in the same way. Oh, mamma ! when first you learned how I loved him, you only pitied me, and were not angry; will you not still bear Avith me V It seemed that she was ever haunted by the dread of having incurred her mother^s displeasure. Trials no less heavy than her own were revealed to Isabel; but borne, as she acknow- ledged, with a keen sense of remorse, in a different spirit. Ruth had appeared to be content and even cheerful, full of interest in the thoughts and pursuits of others ; and Isabel had never dreamed of the struggle by which such self-control was attained. And now, in VOL. II. L 14^ STILL WATERS. bitterness of spirit, she understood Mr. Ball's allusion to that strain upon the mind, which, so far from relieving, she must have aggravated by her self-willed indulgence to listlessness and despondency. Isabel felt as if she had been sitting by that bedside for years, instead of hours, when, late in the afternoon, Sally reminded her that the post would go out in half an hour, and asked if she did not mean to write to Mr. David. She complied with the suggestion, glad that the time made it necessary that her letter should be brief. Since Mr. Ball had not cer- tainly pronounced it a case of brain fever, she would not put her forebodings into shape by using the alarming words. She wrote that Euth was ill and feverish, and that Mr. Ball seemed uneasy about her, and she entreated David to apply for leave, and come to them at once. 'I want you so much,' she added, plain- tively. She counted the hours which must intervene before David could receive and act upon her letter. They went heavily by, and wrought little change in Ruth, except that the violence of the delirium subsided. Her mind still wandered when she spoke; but for the STILL WATERS. I47 most part she lay in a sort of stupor, less harassing to her attendants; yet Mr. Ball evi- dently did not regard this as a more hopeful symptom. On the evening of the second day Isabel ac- companied the doctor half way down-staii^s, in order to hear his evasive answer to her breath- less inquii'ies. He could not say his patient was worse, nor yet much better, and he did not anticipate any change for some days. Isabel returned his good night as well as her parched lips would allow, and attempted to return to her sister's room ; but her trembling limbs refused to carry her farther, and she sank down on the stair, and sobbed convulsively. She was sick at heart, hopeless, and bodily weary; for she had not spared herself as an older and more experienced nurse would have done. She had taken no rest, and scarcely tasted food since Kuth was taken ill. She was roused by hearing Sally in colloquy with some person at the house door. Could it be David ? But in another moment she was only more dispirited to recognise Dr. Berkeley's voice. He was trying to gain admittance, while Sally complied with the instructions which had given offence to many of their acquaintance, in L 2 148 STILL WATERS. repeating that Miss Isabel could see no one while her sister was so ill. It now occurred to Isabel_, that Ruth had not shrunk from in- tercourse with others when her attendance on their mother was most harassing, and she also remembered Dr. Berkeley's peculiar claim to consideration. Not without a struggle, she resisted the impulse to escape before her posi- tion was discovered, and she rose and pre- sented herself in the entrance passage. But she was not prepared to see Miss Perrott as well as the Doctor, and she was only restrained from a hasty retreat by Miss Perrott's voluble inquiries. She was rewarded for the effort ; for, after the first pang was over_, there was a certain relief in imparting to another the hopes and fears which had been locked within her breast. 'You must have met Mr. Ball,^ she said, after repeating the opinion he had just given. ' Yes, we met him,^ said Miss Perrott ; ' and he quite approved of my coming to help you through the nursing. He said that you will soon be as bad as your sister, if you don't take care.' ''I am fit for anything,' returned Isabel^ quite averse to the idea that any one so nervous STILL T^^\TERS. I49 and helpless as Miss PeiTott should share her responsibility. ' And, besides, David will soon be here/ ' You have sent for him T said the Doctor. These were the first words that he had spoken, as he stood before Isabel with folded arms, and a stony, impassive face. ^ Yes ; but I am afraid that I did not write strongly enough at first, or he would have come away at once. I wrote again by the early post this morning, and my letter must bring him in the course of the night.' ' If not,' said Dr. Berkeley, ' I can easily go to York myself.' ' Oh no,' said Isabel, shivering at the re- collection of the former journey he had under- taken on their account ; ' I could not ask you to do that again. And, besides, I am sm-e that it will not be necessary.' It was not so easy to decline Miss Perrott's good offices; and indeed arguments would not have altered her determination. She waited for no invitation to go up-stairs and settle her- self, as she said ; and when Isabel was about to follow her, the Doctor took and detained her hand in his tremulous grasp — ' You must not think me impertinent,' he 150 STILL WATEES. said_, ^ if I ask whether Miss Leunox appears to have anything particular on her mind T Isabel was embarrassed by the question. ' She has had much to try her lately, as you know ; enough, Mr. Ball thinks, to account for this illness. But now she is unconscious of everything.' ' One moment more/ said Dr. Berkeley ; ' you knoAv the relief it would be to feel that I was of any use to you — to her/ ^ Pray for us/ said Isabel, in a low voice, as she disengaged her hand and turned away. Miss Perrott was already established in Ruth's room, and Isabel acknowledged with surprise and some shame, that the helpless old maid was transformed into an efficient sick nurse. She devised alleviations which had oc- curred to no one else, and applied them with a light and skilful hand ; and when she had proved her talents, she ui'ged Isabel to confide her sister to her care, and seek the rest of which she was in need. At first Isabel would only consent to lie down on the sofa in the adjoin- ing room, but Miss Perrott insisted on her going regularly to bed ; and after listening for awhile to the sounds which proceeded from the sick room, and for the rattle of wheels upon STILL WATERS. l^l the pavement, which might herald her brother's arrival, she fell into a heavy, dreamless sleep, which lasted several hours. When she awoke, Sally stood by her bedside, in the twilight of early morning. ' Oh '/ said Isabel, starting up, ' I have slept too long ! How is she ? and is David come V ' There is no change, Mr. Ball says. Miss Lennox seems easier now, though she moaned a good deal through the night. And Mr. David has not come, but here is a letter.' Isabel seized and tore open the envelope, without perceiving that it was not directed in her brother's hand; and thus she was wholly unprepared for the information it contained. ' Prospect-place, York, Christmas Eve. ^My dear Miss Lennox, — You brother de- sires me to write and let you know that nothing but his own illness could have prevented his coming to Holmdale. I hope and believe that there is no cause for serious uneasiness, and that the inflammation of the lungs which has come on in consequence of a neglected cold, will subside in a day or two. He was looking so ill when we met out hunting last week that I was scarcely surprised to hear of this attack, 15 2^ STILL WATERS. and as I happened to be still in the neighbour- hood^ I came into York at once, and I shall not leave him as long as I can be of the slightest use. By the doctor^s advice we have moved him out of barracks into lodgings ; and as he seems to prefer my company to that of the officers in the depot, with none of whom he happens to be intimate, I am installed as head nurse. His anxiety about your sister makes him an unmanageable patient, since he fancies himself fit to go over to Holmdale, which is far from being the case. So that if you should unhappily have occasion to send an unfavourable report, I trust that you will soften it as much as possible in your letters to him, and urge him not to think of moving at present. I need not tell you what pain it gives me to be the bearer of such tidings, when you have already so much upon your mind, or assure you that I shall Mrite constantly and fully. Lennox sends his love; and I repeat his very words — ' Tell her not to fret about me, as 1 am well cared for, and shall come away with all speed. And she must not overtire herself.' ' Believe me, my dear Miss Lennox, ^ Ever very faithfully yours, ' Edward Lynmere.' STILL WATERS. 153 Isabel was stunned by tliis fresli blow. The knowledge that David was ill — seriously ill — as she gathered from the tone of the letter^ rather than from any particular expression, and to be unable to go to him, was more grievous than anything she had yet had to bear. The proud and exclusive affection lavished on him in their childish years, had given place for a time to a new and more absorbing love ; but it revived in full force, and she repeated wildly, that he was her first — her all — that she could not give him up. She rose and walked to the window, and then remembered, for the first time, that it was Christmas morning. It was still so early that the street was almost de- serted, but the glad holiday aspect of the few passers by made IsabeFs heart very full, for she felt that no Christmas joy would lighten her cares that day. ' And yet,' she thought, ' the spring of their gladness should be the source of our patience. Those glad-tidings were to us and to all people — peace on earth.' She clasped her hands, learn- ing the lesson brought home to all in their hour of extremest need, that she must not seek the gratification of her self-willed desires, but only for strength to bear her appointed cross. 1-54 STILL WATEKS. ' Well^ my dear cliild^ what now V said Miss Perrott^ as she entered the room. ^ Sally says she is afraid that you have some bad news from David ; I was just wondering whether he could have got into some scrape to prevent his coming/ ' As if it was the least likely !' returned Isabel_, disdainfully. ^ David is ill^ too ill to write himself, so that I have only heard from Lord Edward Lynmere / and she put the letter into Miss Perrott^s hand_, although she thought her unworthy to see it, after expressing such an unwarranted suspicion. ^A very feeling letter/ !Miss Perrott re- marked. ^ I dare say that he will do the best he can for yom- brother ; but it is just like a man, to give no particulars — nothing about his pulse, or the cough, or the doctor^s opinion.^ * So I was thinking,^ said Isabel ; ' we know so little, and he must need woman^s nursing. I donH know where I am most wanted.^ ' Oh,^ said Miss Perrott, retracting her for- mer remark ; ^ I have no doubt that Lord Ed- ward will take every care of him; indeed, he says so. After all, I dare say it is nothing serious, and illness does not go hard with a strong young man like David; very different from poor Ruth, who was quite worn-out already.^ STILL TTATERS. 155 ^ You need not think that I have forgotten Ruth/ said Isahel, as the hot tears started to her eyes. ^ I have neglected her long enough ; I only wanted to know what I ought to do/ !Miss Perrott was not a little flattered that Isabel_, the wilful and impetuous, should submit to her guidance. 'You see/ she said, '^that, putting Ruth out of the question, it would not quite do for you to go off to York by yourself, to live in lodgings close by the barracks.^ 'As to that,^ returned Isabel, quickly, '^no absurd notions of propriety should keep me away.^ ' My dear Isabel, it would have been a happy thing for you if you had paid more attention to notions of propriety. I did not mean to vex you,^ she added, observing IsabeFs indignant colour ; ' young people will be thoughtless, and it is natural that you should wish to be with your brother, so attached as you have always been. But I don^t know what the world would say, if you were to leave Ruth in her critical state, and go travelling across country to help this Lord Edward and half a dozen young officers, to nurse Da\id through what may be only a bad cold; and though I should take aU care of Ruth, you would not feel comfort- 1^6 STILL WATERS. able if anything were to happen while yon are away/ ' Yon need not pnt that motive last/ said Isabel ; ' I care for Euth, if I care little for what the world may say, and I shall not leave her. You talk as if — as if yon expected some change. Has Mr. Ball told yon more than he tells me V ' He was here at four this morning, fancying that the fever might turn; and then he wishes to be at hand, for she might sink fast, if nothing is done to uphold her strength. But he saw no change, and there has been none since, except that she moved once or twice, and called me mamma ; poor dear V And Miss Perrott's small light-blue eyes twinkled with unwonted tears. No tears moistened Isabel's burning eye- balls, and her face grew rigid in its calmness, as she said — 'Thank you very much for watching with her. Mamma would thank you if she could. I will dress and come to her room as soon as I can, that you may go and rest.' ' I tell you what will be better ; that you should go to the early Communion before you take my place. You have not forgotten,' Miss STILL WATEKS. 157 Perrott added^ as Isabel looked irresolute,, '' that it is ChristEQas-day/ ^ Xo^ I had not forgotten ; but I am afraid that I should not enter into the service/ 'You will, if you set your mind to it/' said Miss Perrott, persuasively, ^ and you will feel better for it afterwards/ ' I will go/ said Isabel, after a pause, em- ployed in pondering, not on the words of her companion, but upon the gracious promise made to those who are ' weary and heavy laden/ It was sm-ely not a time to refuse the invi- tation. Her resolution did not falter, though it cost her a struggle to pass Ruth^s door without entering. Miss Perrott had so ruled, declaring that it worried the patient to have people fidgeting in and out, and Isabel was forced to acquiesce. She was sensitive to the chilliness of the morning air after her close confinenient to the house, but it was rather in the hope of avoid- ing recognition that she drew her crape veil over her face. The precaution did not avail her, for a bright-eyed child belonging to her Sunday class crossed the street in order to drop a curtsey, and say, in clear joyous tones — 'Please^ Miss Isabel, a merry Christmas.' 158 STILL WATERS. ' She looked strange/ the little girl afterwards told her companions ; ' but I think she was going to say thank you, only she was stopped by something like a sob/ The only other Christmas greeting Avhich Isabel received was of a different character. Dr. Berkeley joined her at the entrance of the alley of leafless limes leading up to the church ; and when Isabel had answered his hurried in- quiries, he seemed unable to pursue the sub- ject, and said abruptly — ^ This is different from other Christmas -days, Isabel.' ' Yes ; but we did not know how happy we were till it was too late. It is too late now.' ^ David has not come V said the Doctor. ' No ; I will tell you about it afterwards/ said Isabel, turning away. She would not dis- tract her mind by dwelling on this fresh an- xiety, now that she wished to lift her heart above earthly cares. The attempt was not un- successful. The traces of tears were still on her face when she left the church, softening its former expression of hopeless misery, and she spoke of Ruth and of her brother's illness with a sad patience. To Dr. Berkeley her report of Lord Edward's STILL WATERS. 1 59 letter appeared sufficiently alarming, yet he did not renew his offer of going to York. Perhaps the spell was irresistible which bound him to hover round that melancholy house in Bean- street, his eyes riveted on the window in the upper story, which was distinguished from the rest by its closed shutters. l6o STILL WATERS. CHAPTEH XI. I have known how sickness bends, I have known how sorrow breaks. How quick hopes have sudden ends, How the heart thinks till it aches Of the smile of buried friends. E. B. BllOWNING. "l /riSS PERHOTT met Isabel in the passage -^-^ with such a disturbed face that she asked^ with sudden alarm, if Rutli was worse. ^ No ; but it is a mercy she is not. I have had such a piece of work since you went away.^ Before Isabel could demand an explanation, the appearance of a third person fully accounted for Miss Perrott^s discomposure, since it was no other than Clara Gascoigne. ' Oh, Clara !^ ' Well, Isabel, you could not have looked more disturbed if you had seen a ghost.^ * A ghost might be more welcome,' answered Isabel, with a smile more sad than tears ; ' for that only speaks when it is spoken to, and does not wear such a horrible rustling silk. Is Kuth's door shut?' STILL WATERS. l6l ' I should think so/ said Miss Perrott, tersely. '^And that/ exclaimed Clara^ 'is the most civil thing you can say, when I have come ex- press from Scarborough to see her — grievously offending my future belle mere, and breaking all the engagements I made for to-morrow's ball. I positively will not stir till I have seen her/ ' You must not talk so loud/ said Isabel ; ' come down to the sitting-room.' And she led the way there, leaving Miss Perrott to vacillate between indignation at Clara's inconsiderate wilfulness and reluctant admiration of her grace and beauty. The sitting-room looked melancholy and de- serted, for it had been unused since the be- ginning of Ruth's illness; and Clara clasped her hands with a gesture of despair — ' Ah ! this house would make any one triste. I said so when E-uth took it. But tell me, Isabel, is she really so ill, or was it only written by Mr. Dunn, and said by Miss Perrott, from the in- stinct middle-aged, middle-class people have to make themselves disagreeable?' 'You must not say anything against Miss Perrott, Clara.' VOL. II. M l52 STILL WATERS. 'Why, I am sure she was no favourite of yours. She used to he the text for RutVs lectures on social duties/ ' It is hard to remind me of all the flippant, heartless things I may have said, at a time when the recollection is already sufficiently bitter,' said Isabel. ^ Then tell me about Ruth,' rejoined Clara, ' and I will not tease you.' Isabel gave a brief account of her sister's illness, adding, ' Mr. Ball says that perfect quiet is the only hope, so you must see how impossible it is for you to see her.' ' I don't see it at all,' answered Clara ; ' if she knows no one, my going in cannot disturb her more than yours. I will walk on tiptoe, and speak in whispers.' ' The most disturbing thing you could do, Clara.' ^ Well, you need not be so contemptuous on my qualifications as nurse, for you must allow that I did her all the good in the world by carrying her off to Dyne Court. If she had stayed there, I believe she would have escaped this illness.' 'I believe she would,' said Isabel, tremu- lously ; ' and she came away on my account. STILL WATERS. 1 63 She never spared herself when she was ill and weary, and all the while I thought only of myself. And now I can see that Mr. Ball expects the worst — yet not the worst for her. Shall I tell yon, Clara, the verse she repeated over and over again the first night that she was taken ill ? — ^ Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away and be at rest.' ' ' She will not die,' said Clara, recoiling from the thought. ' Do not look so unhappy, Isabel. I don't want to keep you, but you must let me have one little peep at her.' Isabel's refusal was positive, and Clara was at last induced to give up the point. She ob- served that, if she was to be of no use, she might as well return to go to church with Sir John; but she was still arranging the folds of the ofiending silk dress, when she hazarded the first allusion to David that had been made on either side. ' I have not told you,' she said, trying, but with less success than usual, to speak with an air of unconcern — ' I have not told you how I met my Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance in York.' Isabel had considered Clara unworthy of M % 164 STILL WATERS. sharing this additional anxiety, but she now looked np with tearful eagerness. ' You mean Lord Edward. Did he say any- thing of David T ' He mentioned his illness ; but I suppose you have heard by the post/ ' Yes ; but he may have given you more particulars. Did he seem anxious, and spesk as if he was very ill ?' ^To tell you the truth, he spoke rather pointedly, and seemed anxious to make the ■worst of it in order to awaken my compunc- tion. As if,^ Clara added, lightly, *^in these modern days, a disappointment in love sent people into a consumption. Why, I should be just as well and merry if I heard to-morrow that Evelyn has gone off with Miss Thomason. She is gone to Gibraltar, and, as I hear, they are flirting outrageously.^ ' Did he say consumption ?' said Isabel, not heeding, and scarcely hearing the latter part of Clara^s speech. ' I forgot whether he used the word exactly ; but he implied it, solely, as I said just now, from a desire to make me uncomfortable, in which he did not at all succeed. I told him to assm'e Mr. Lennox that I was on my way to STILL WATERS. 165 Holmdale, on purpose to help you to take care of Euth, so that he might keep his mind easy. Lord Edward said dubiously, that he should not fail to deliver my message, if it was likely to have that effect — so very insulting.' ' I must go up to Ruth now/ said Isabel, wearily. She wondered at her own folly in supposing that it was possible for Clara to set at rest the sickening anxiety awakened by her careless words. The warnings of other years concerning the delicacy of Da%T.d^s constitution rose up before her, and though Lord Edward had only written of a neglected cold, little more might be needed to implant the seeds of that terrible disease. * I did not mean to keep you,^ said Clara, ' but you must let me sit here until the carriage comes to fetch me. I desired that it might come round in an hour.^ Isabel took Miss Perrott^s place by her sister's bedside, and impatiently awaited Mr. Ball's return. There was little apparent change : Uuth's breathing was still heavy and irregular; her mind as little conscious as before ; her movements, if anything, rather feebler. The icy coldness of the grasp in which Isabel re- tained one of the restless, quivering hands 1 65 STILL WATEES. seemed grateful, and in that position Isabel sat still and prayed. The silence was broken by the doctor^s slow, cautious footfall along the passage ; but it was followed by a lighter step^ and Isabel was dis- mayed, though not surprised, when Clara en- tered with ]Mr. Ball. She walked on tiptoe, as she had engaged to do, her finger on her lips, and something like a smile of triumph dim- pling her cheeks. The smile died on her lips when 'My. Ball drew back the shutter in order to see his patient, and admitted a sickly ray of light into the darkened room. Kurtm-ed in luxurious ease, and shielded from all which might shock and offend the senses, Clara was wholly unprepared for the sight which met her eyes. It was terrible to see features so familiar altered and disfigured beyond the power of re- cognition; the brows red and swelled, the eyes glazed, the lips parched, and, above all, the vacancy of expression. Xow, however, Kuth raised her heavy eyes with something like awakening consciousness, and looked at Clara, who had pressed forward to the foot of the bed. She struggled to speak, and at length succeeded in pronouncing Clara^s name articulately. ^Yes, dear,^ Clara answered with a sob. STILL WATERS. 15; ' It is you/ said Kutli^ slowly ; ^ I have waited so long. Now that I am so ill^ you will answer and say what has become of Jasper. Perhaps he told you what he was going to do ; he would have told me if you had waited/ ' Indeed, Ruth, he told me nothing/ said Clara, and an expression of ^ hope deferred' crept over RutVs face. Before she could speak again, Mr. Ball said peremptorily — ' Take her away. Miss Isabel ; this will never do. It only increases the excitement to answer her.' Isabel compHed with his directions, and led Clara from the room, who had just self-control sufficient to restrain a fit of hysterics until she was outside the door. But the sounds reached ;Mr. BalFs ears, and he hurried out, sending Isabel back to the sick-room, and inveighing against his own folly in trusting to Clara's pro- fessions of good behaviour. He fairly fright- ened her out of this exhibition of feeling by administering such home truths as she had pro- bably never heard before, or at least from none but Ptuth. In a few minutes she was on her way back to Dyne Court, feeling disconsolate, ill-used, and unhappy; trying to soothe her agitated nerves, and chase away a headache i6S STILL WATERS. with eau cle Cologne^ and wishing that it were equally easy to efface the image of suffering and sickness so vividly impressed upon her brain. ' I did not know how to refuse her/ Mr. Ball said, apologetically, when, after resuming the examination of his patient, he summoned Isabel into the adjoining room to inform her of his opinion. ' She made such a point of see- ing her, and promised to behave so well ; and really the quickness with which Miss Lennox recognised her was a good sign, though I was alarmed by the excitement which followed.^ To this faint shadow of hope Isabel clung despairingly. STILL WATERS. 169 CHAPTER XII. Like a tree beside the river Of her life, that runs from me. Do I lean me, murmuring ever, In my love's idolatry. In my ears the sii-en river Sings, and smiles up in my face ; But for ever, and for ever Euns fi'om my embrace. Geeald Massey. ' TSABEL !' whispered Euth. -■- Three days had passed. The fever had subsided; consciousness had returned; and though too weak to speak above her breath or raise her hand from the coverlet_, Kuth was pronounced out of danger. Isabel bent down to catch her faint tones. ^ Isabel^ where is David ? You must have sent for him when I was so ill ; and he is not here.^ ' He is at York ; he could not come/ said Isabel. ' And you look so anxious_, though I heard 170 STILL WATERS. Mr. Ball tell you not to be anxious about me. Is anything amiss with David V Isabel struggled to diive back the tears which might have agitated her sister. ^ He has been ill ; but Miss Perrott says that I am foolish and ungrateful not to trust that all will be well now that you are getting better.' Ruth's eyes demanded an explanation ; and with an effort to make light of her uneasiness, Isabel detailed the particulars of her brother's illness. She need not have been so much afraid of alarming Ruth, for her excessive weak- ness had induced a certain languor of mind ^vhich gave no place for agitation. As one of Isabel's glossy curls fell over her face, she caressingly entwined it round her finger, as she said, ' Poor child ! It was good of you to stay and nurse me when you must have longed to be with David.' ^ I did not wish it while you were so ill. I should not think of it now, only Lord Edward ■writes that David is so restless and anxious to be with us, that he is afraid of his undertaking the journey before he is fit for it.' ' Then you ought to go to him to keep him quiet ; I want no one now but Sally.' ' You wiU miss me a little/ said Isabel, ten- STILL WATERS. 171 derly. ^ And^ besides^ ^liss Perrott says that it will not do for me to go aloue/ Ruth smiled faintly, to think how Isabel must have been tamed before she accepted INIiss Perrott's code of propriety. But she only said, ^ In that case. Miss Perrott can do no less than act duemia/ Isabel repeated her objections to leading her sister to Sally^s care, and nothing more was said at the time; but when Miss Perrott her- self came in to send Isabel out for a breath of fi'esh ail', Ruth renewed the subject. ' Isabel has been telling me of Da\id's illness.^ ' I thought Isabel had more sense/ rejoined Miss Perrott, tartly ; ' I beg you will not think of it, but remember that ^Ir. Ball wishes you to keep your mind easy. The boy has had the influenza, always very depressing; and he chooses to magnify it into a serious illness, for the sake of making himself important. Men always do.^ * I have no doubt he would be much happier if he had a woman to nurse and cheer him.^ '^You don^t mean to say,-' retm-ned Miss Perrott, ^that you encourage Isabel's absm-d inclination to run off from her duties here to live in barracks with him, or at least in lodg- 17^ STILL WATERS. ings close by, which comes to the same thing. I thought that I had convinced Isabel herself that it wonld never do/ ' She could not go^ unless you will be kind enough to go with her/ Miss Perrott happily remembered the weak- ness of KutVs head in time to suppress a little shriek of dismay. She had not slept a night out of Holmdale for eighteen years^ and she was afraid of clamp sheets, railway collisions, and all possible and impossible evils. But Ruth overruled all objections, and ]\Iiss Perrott knew not how to refuse a request made as a personal favour to Ruth herself. ^Though you have no right to ask it, my dear,^ she added, ^ for you are not in the least fit to take care of yourself.^ ' Mr. Ball says I have nothing to do but to lie quiet, and eat and sleep,^ said Ruth ; ' and Sally can keep the door against all intruders.^ ' Miss Perrott observed, that if they were to go at all, the sooner the better, and she went home to make the necessary preparations for starting on the morrow. IsabePs eyes glistened when she found on her return that everything was arranged for their departure. Was Ruth sure she ought to go ? And, satisfied on that STILL WATERS. 173 pointy she confessed that she thought so too. She found Lord Edward's last report still less satisfactory on a second reading, and the few lines added by David himself were written in straggling, uneven characters, which betrayed the weakness of which he complained. When, however, the moment of departure came, Isabel clung round her sister, as if un- able to tear herself away. Ruth spoke cheer- fully, saying, that she meant to be well enough to make tea for her and David on their return ; and with a long kiss, and a whispered entreaty that she would be prudent, Isabel hurried away. Her last words were to Sally — ' You understand that Miss Gascoigne is not to be admitted on any pretence whatever.^ ' Not if I can help it. Miss Isabel,' said Sally, doubtfully. She had been too often baffled by Clara's pertinacity to have much confidence in her powers of resistance. Although the journey to York only occupied two or three hours, it was wearisome enough. !Miss Perrott^s restlessness disturbed the equani- mity of her fellow-travellers, especially those of the masculine gender ; she was encumbered by more than her fair share of loose parcels, with which she was continually migrating from one 174 STILL WATERS. seat to another^ to escape imaginary draughts^ and she was at last constrained to tie a three- cornered shawl over her bonnet, as a silent reproach to the strong-minded person who insisted on putting down part of the window. Isabel gave a mechanical assent to her queru- lons reminiscences of the greater deference paid to ladies in her younger days ; but all the while her thoughts were straying between the sick room she had left and the one to which she was hastening. ^ I hope Lord Edward will meet us ; it will be awkward if we have to call a cab for our- selves/ said Miss Perrott, as the train slackened speed to enter the station at York. ' We shall do very well/ said Isabel ; but as she spoke she descried Lord Edward^s tall, erect figure on the platform. She had last seen him in the dining-room at Wentworth Lodge, and the recollection came full upon her amid a storm of mingled feeling which it was difficult to subdue. Yet, if her heart swelled, her voice was calm and quiet, as she said, ' I am sorry that you should have troubled yourself to come and meet us ; I only wrote to tell you of our coming, for fear it might startle David.^ ^ Your letter was a great relief,' said Lord STILL WATERS. 175 Edward_, ' for_, thougli you must not think me weary of my charge, I feel that Lennox needs a sister^s nursing. Unfortunately his lodgings are too confined to take you in^ but I have engaged rooms for you within a few minutes' walk.' ^ The luggage !' interposed Miss Perrott^ piteously; 'the train will certainly go off with it — ^two boxes and a bag — I must go and look after it '/ ' Pray do not move/ said Lord Edward^ with ready courtesy ; ' I am sure that I can find it. Two boxes and a bag, did you say^ Miss Perrott V ' Very well bred !' remarked Miss Perrott, as Lord Edward started on his quest ; ' but I wondered at you, Isabel, that you could go on making civil speeches, without thinking of the luggage, or so much as asking after David/ ' I did not dare,' said Isabel, in a low tone, which did not reach her companion's ears. Lord Edward presently returned ; and in a few minutes they were seated in the fly, which he directed should go round by Sheet- street, to leave their goods, before proceeding to Prospect- place. ' Including me, I suppose,' said Miss Per- 1 7^ STILL WATERS. rott, with a little, sliort laugli, which discon- certed Lord Edward. After a moment^s hesi- tation between sincerity and politeness, he said frankly — ^ I believe it would be better. Lennox has one or two sick fancies, and among them is a dislike to new faces.' A half-uttered soliloquy, ' that her face was old enough/ betrayed Miss Perrott^s inclination to be offended ; but she thought better of it, and observed, that she could make things comfort- able before IsabeFs return. She was left to execute her intentions and to pay the flyman, while Isabel set out with Lord Edward to walk to Prospect-place. Alone with him, she found courage to make the in- quiries which had faltered on her lips. ^ Will you tell me, Lord Edward, what you really think of him V ^ You must be prepared to see him looking ill,^ he answered, gently. ^ I know I must ; but tell me exactly how he is.^ ' He has been ill enough since I came to him, yet never so ill as he was before he allowed that anything was amiss. All who saw him at the meet at Elverly Gorse were shocked by his STILL WATERS. I 77 looks and the sound of his cough; and when I rode into York next morning, I Tvas relieved to hear that he had given in, and sent for the doctor/ ' He never mentioned his cough/ said Isabel. ^Yery likely not — nor his motive for such imprudence. Mrs. Evelyn Gascoigne and her party came over from Scarborough, to attend the military ball, and they were afterwards visiting Sir Richard Cassilies, on whose pro- perty the meet took place/ ' Clai'a did not tell me that she had seen him.' ' It is true, notwithstanding. I was also at the ball, and I had occasion more than once to contradict the report that your brother was the officer in the th to whom Miss Gascoigne is engaged. Do not imagine,' Lord Edward added, after a pause, ' that I speak fi'om any personal interest in the matter. Whatever I may have thought of Miss Gascoigne, her heartless levity has dispersed the illusion as completely as if it had never existed.' The bitterness of his tone warned Isabel that he was not yet qualified to be a dispassionate judge ; and as she was not so charitably disposed towards Clara as to undertake her defence, it was easier to speak of any other subject. VOL. II. N 170 STILL WATERS. 'Will David be pleased to see me?^ ' At first/ said Lord Edward, frankly, ' he was annoyed to hear of your coming, thinking that you could not be spared from home ; but he was induced to accept it as a proof of your sister's convalescence/ ' It was Ruth who persuaded me to come/ said Isabel. ^We felt that it was unfair to leave him any longer in your charge/ ^It must be confessed/ said Lord Edward, ' that Lennox is an intractable patient. He is so variable, sometimes languid and depressed, and then, again, determined to resume duty, or go out hunting, or start for Holmdale. And you must be prepared to find him altered ; his looks are the worst part of him.' This was not encouraging ; and it was with a faint and fluttering heart that Isabel ascended the stair of her brother's lodging. Lord Ed- ward would have parted from her at the door, if the maid had not informed him that there were other gentlemen up-stairs. He looked annoyed, observing that the vicinity of Prospect- place to the barracks made David's room much too convenient a lounge for the officers. Ac- cordingly they found the atmosphere of the small low room unsuited to an invalid. Three STILL WATERS. 179 young men stood on the rug, fresh from the evening air, so that their loose and shaggy- coats steamed before the fire, and the cigar in the mouth of one of them was possibly in- tended to correct the dampness of the air. David himself was reclining on a horse-hair sofa, a railway wrapper and one round bolster its only appliances of ease; and the comfort- less aspect of the room was quite in keeping with this establishment. The chairs were set against the wall, piled with newspapers and great-coats, while the heavy centre table stood empty, ready to receive David^s next meal. Isabel took in this general impression of the room at one rapid glance, for the confusion which followed her entrance put a stop to further researches. The owner of the cigar was also the proud possessor of a bull-terrier, which started up to justify his barrack -educa- tion, by resenting the intrusion of the wearer of shawl and bonnet. ' Price^ was instantly required to pacify his dog ; and as he was de- sirous at the same time to dispose of his cigar, and to apologize to Miss Lennox, he only looked helpless and distracted. Isabel drew back with the air of shy stateliness which she involuntarily wore before strangers, while Lord N 2, l8o STILL WATERS. Edward pressed forward^ and silenced the animaPs fierce growl by an indignant word and gesture, wliich its owner seemed to take to himself. ' Here, Nipper^ good Nipper, lie down, sir. We meant no offence, did we V ' Nor did I take any/ said Lord Edward ; * I only wished to make way for Miss Lennox.^ The young men took the hint, and after lingering for a moment to gaze curiously at the stranger, they left the room. Lord Ed- ward only waited to follow them down-stairs until he had informed Isabel that he would return to walk back with her to Sheet- street, and the brother and sister were left together. But the welcome which Isabel had hoped was only reserved until they were alone, was still withheld. David did not raise himself from the sofa — he did not even raise his eyes — but continued to balance a letter-weight on his fingers ; in which interesting occupation he had been engaged from the time of his sister^s entrance. ^ I hope you are better, David,' said Isabel, timidly stooping to kiss his foreheadj and remarking, as she did so, with a sudden pang, how distinctly the blue veins were traced STILL WATERS. l8l Tipon liis temples^ as well as tlie expression of languor and weariness in wliicli the lines of his face were settled. ' I wrote that I was better/ said Da^dd^ un- graciously. ' Yes ; but Lord Edward was afraid that you would think yourself well too soon, and move before you are fit for it.^ '^Lord Edward might allow me to manage my own affairs.' ' Oh, David ! when he has been so kind in nursing you.' ' So kind, that I wonder that you thought of interfering with his province. And_, besides, you had to take care of Kuth; or did you only make the worst of her illness for the sake of giving me something pleasant to think of?' ' Euth wished me to come/ said Isabel. She could not go on ; but, as she still stood behind her brother, he did not see her strug- gling to drive back her tears, and he resumed with increasing irritation — ' And then the idea of bringing ^liss Perrott was really preposterous. It is well you are in separate lodgings, for nothing will induce me to see her. The very sight of her wizened apple- 1 82 STILL WATERS. face^ and of the ill-assorted colours of her dress, would throw me into a fever/ ^ I am sorry that we came, since you do not like it/ said Isabel ; and her subdued and falter- ing tone touched David, already half ashamed of his petulance. He caught at one of Isabels clustering curls, so as to draw down her face on a level with his own, and finding that it was wet with tears, he said, hastily — ' Foolish child ! there is nothing to be sorry about. Only you have taken a useless jour- ney, for I am determined to apply for sick- leave and go home at once. Tell me about Ruth.^ Isabel began her story; but her brother listened with divided attention, and it pre- sently appeared to whom his thoughts were straying. *■ It was so like lier^ he said, in a quick, nervous voice, ^ to start off at once, as soon as she heard of Ruth's illness, giving up all the gaieties.^ '^You mean Clara,' said Isabel, with con- straint. ' How did you hear it T 'Not from you, you prudent sister; but I contrived to extract the truth from Lynmere, though he was equally disposed to reserve. He STILL WATEIiS. 1 83 met her on the platform, where I had sent him to forage for some light literature, when she was on her way to Dyne Court. So you may finish the story. Have you seen much of her, and did you leave Ruth in her care ?' ' Not exactly/ said Isabel, smiling at the thought of her last injunctions to Sally. She did not choose to repeat them, however, only observing that Ruth was still too weak to bear a strange voice or face. ' Miss Gascoigne is no stranger,^ rejoined David ; ' but I see how it is. You have been as ungracious as possible, because you resent wrongs for which Miss Gascoigne is not answer- able.^ IsabeFs heart swelled at the unjust reproach, for it was the sense of her brother^s wrongs, rather than her own, which had estranged her from Clara; and though aware that it would be better to let the matter rest, she could not forbear replying — ^ Oh, David, why should we talk of Clara ? She is, and can be, nothing to you now.' ^ I do not know that,' answered David, while the bright, fixed colour in his cheeks overspread face and brow. ' If it had not been for this — this illness -/ he remembered his sister's pre- 1S4 STILL WATERS. serice in time to suppress the epithet which rose to his lips — ' she might have been mine. I believe she may be mine yet. But it is useless to speak to one from whom I can expect neither sympathy nor interest/ ' Trust me^ David/ said Isabel ; and, moved by her words, as well as by the tears which fell hot upon the hand she was caressing, her bro- ther resumed — ' There, I did not mean to vex you ; but if you were fretted and fevered with impatience as I am, you would know how hard it is for a man to keep his tongue in order. At first we met accidentally ; at least I knew that it was possible Mrs. Evelyn Gascoigne might come from Scarborough for the officers' ball, but of course I was obliged to be there. I saw her the moment she came in, looking paler than usual, but quite as pretty. I kept aloof, danc- ing the whole evening with the Clarkes and Maudes, until we met by chance in the supper- room. She asked after you and Ruth, and said rather reproachfully that she thought I had cut her. And then you know I was obliged to ask her to dance.' ^ Well V said Isabel ; for her brother paused, perhaps in order to recall the mingled sensa- STILL WATERS. 185 tions witli whicli he had yielded to such an obligation. ' \Yell, we have only met two or three times since, and her manner was just what it has ever been — bright and varying, and ever fascinating. "^Then she spoke of Evelyn Gascoigne at all, it was as if she began to know how unworthy he is to be named in the same breath with her, going on as he does with ^liss Thomason.^ ' Oh, David ! I hope that you did not tell her that.^ ^ Not I ; I would not take the fellow^s name between my teeth. But I forgot ; you may not like to hear what I think of him.^ '^ Thank you/ replied Isabel, her full lip cm'ving with no gentle emotion, ' you need not spare him on my account; but I would rather hear of Clara.^ ' There is little more to tell. As I said just now, her manner was not always the same, and the impression which I made one day seemed to have vanished the next; so I could not bear to give in, when this cough came on, and that day at Elverly Gorse finished me. It was chilly, and dank, and miserable — a fine hunting-day, people said. How I shivered as I rode home, with a pain in my chest -^hich l85 STILL WATEKS. would not let me go off a foot's pace; and though she was there, looking her best on horseback, as she always does, she was so surrounded by fine people that I could not get near her/ Although Isabel saw that her brother was in no mood to bear contradiction, she felt con- strained to make some protest. ^ But, after all, David, she is still engaged to Captain Gascoigne/ ' What then T he rejoined, fiercely ; ' am I to consider myself under any obligation to that empty-headed coxcomb V ' An empty-headed coxcomb ! Oh, David, he is not that/ ^ I thought that you gave me leave to say what I pleased of that worthy,^ rejoined David, in a tone which silenced Isabel. He went on with nervous haste — ' Besides, I expect Sir John himself to break off the engagement. He has had to pay Gascoigne's debts since he went back to Gibraltar, and he cannot have been very well pleased with their amount. And instead of coming home as soon as his affairs were settled, he has put off the sale of his commission on any idle excuse, for the sake, as Miss Gascoigne herself says, of enjoying his liberty a little longer, and pursuing his flirta- tion with Miss Thomason.' STILL WATERS. 1 87 Tliat Clara should make such a speech was less surprising than that David should repeat it with complacency; and Isabel could only wonder in silence at his infatuation, since his hurried breathing, and low, frequent cough, warned her of the risk of agitating him by any opposition. Lord Edward's entrance was a relief, since David was forced to turn to other subjects. And Isabel was gratified by his full inquiries after her sister, which enabled her to go over the details of her illness, still too fresh in her recollection to be set aside. Then tea came in ; and though ashamed of leaving ]\riss Perrott so long alone, Isabel stayed to make it, and was rewarded by hearing that it was the first time David had found the tea drinkable since his illness. ^ Well, what did you think of him V said Lord Edward, as he and Isabel walked home together. Isabel replied, in an unsteady voice, ^ 1 — I don't know; he does not think himself that there is anything really amiss.' They did not speak again, except to ex- change a good-night on the door-step of the lodgings. l88 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER XIII. I was not ever thus, nor prayed that Thoa Shouldst lead me on. I loved to choose and see my path ; hut now Lead Thou me on ! I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears. Pride ruled my will : rememher not past years ! J. H. Newman. ISABEL had been more than a week in York before her brother succeeded in ob- taining his doctor's sanction to return to Holmdale. Indeed it was only obtained by importunity, and the physician informed Lord Edward that, although it was useless to combat a sick man's fancy, he considered that if Mr. Lennox chose to move at all in such severe weather, he ought to seek some milder climate. Lord Edward repeated this advice, and it was enforced by Isabel ; but David laughed at them both, declaring that he had been coddled quite long enough, and that he should employ the remainder of his sick-leave in enjoying life at home. And when Isabel had written to pre- pare Euth for their arrival on the following STILL WATERS. 1 89 Monday, his spirits rose so much, that he pro- nounced himself equal to an interview with Miss Perrott, whom he had hitherto declined to see. Poor Miss Perrott had some cause to think herself aggrieved by the aiTangements of the foregoing week ; and she was doubtful whether her offended dignity would permit her to ac- cept the invitation so tardily made, to come and drink tea with Da\id on the following evening. ^ I hardly think I can go/ she replied ; ' the nights are so cold, and the streets hardly safe for walking, this slippery weather.^ * We did not think of your walking,^ said Isabel; ^Lord Edward knows where to get a Bath chair, or else we can take a fly.' ^ That would be a very unnecessary expense, for I can drink my tea just as well alone. I am quite used to it, you know.' 'But / am not used to it/ said Isabel, pleadingly ; ' it makes me quite uncomfortable when I cannot get home in time. I really could not help it to-night, for Lord Edward took my letter to the post, and David made me wait tiU he came back, as he did not like me to walk home alone in the dark.' 190 STILL WATERS. ' Lord Edward is sucli a devoted cavalier/ observed !Miss Perrott, ' running your errands, and escorting you hither and tliither_, that my attendance might have been dispensed with/ ' He is very good-natured/ said Isabel^ not choosing to see more than the simple meaning of the words. ' It was so kind of him to stay on^ leading what must be a very tiresome life for a man ; for I donH know what I should have done without him. He checks David^s imprudence when I have quite failed, and never minds putting him out for the time ; and they are as good friends as ever afterwards. Then it amuses me to see him coolly turning all the officers out of the room as soon as he comes into it, and so politely, that it is impossible for them to take offence.^ ' I don^t like the looks of those officers/ observed ^liss Perrott. ^ Some of them came out of the house as I left you at the door this morning, and they brushed by so quickly, very unlike Lord Edward^s courtesy ; and they dress in a different style. ^ ^ Yes/ Isabel replied ; ' but you must re- member the difference in age. These are David's contemporaries, and it is very possible that Lord Edward was a gay young man once, STILL WATERS. 19 1 and as soigne in his dress as any of thera, before he outgrew such youthful follies/ ' Why^ my dear/ said Miss Perrott^ ' you talk as if Lord Edward was quite an elderly man. He cannot be much past thirty — not past five-and-thu'ty at the most/ ' Very likely not/ said Isabel, indifferently ; ' but one counts a man^s age by his cares rather than his years^ and Lord Edward has evidently known enough of life to sober him. No one thinks of calling lluth young. Oh^ Miss Perrott_, how very glad I shall be to see Ruth again ! It will make up for everything which is disagi'eeable in going home.^ ' What is disagreeable^ my dear V said Miss Perrott ; but the question remained un- answered. David murmured throughout the following day at the impending infliction of Miss Per- rott's society; but when she actually appeared, he received her with a good grace, and was more like his old self than Isabel had yet seen him. The presence of a third person imposed some restraint on the petulance with which he was apt to resent any opposition to the caprice of the moment, and he was ashamed to exact the same service fi'om his sister which she ren- 193 STILL WATEES. dered with unwearied patience when they were alone. In such offices of love she only took delight, but there was great relief in feeling secure for a whole evening from any mention of Clara Gascoigne, which was ever allied with an accusation of indifference to all in which David^s happiness was involved. He knew not, and never dreamed of the prayer which went forth night after night from Isabel, bowed and prostrate, with quivering hands clasped over her face : — ' Thy will be done ! Teach him, Lord, in Thine own way, and at Thine own time, yet take him not hence till he has learned to seek Thee first.^ It was that sickening dread which robbed her of heart and hope. Others might forebode a different end to this illness ; but he spoke only of recovery, and of that absorbing and unjustifiable passion which made life dear. If the sentence had indeed gone forth, was he prepared to meet it ? Only in prayer, however, could Isabel en- dure to put her fears into words, and she had not prepared Miss Perrott for the change she saw in David. Shocked by his appearance, she forgot the sharp things she had put aside to say to him on the first opportunity ; and was in danger of annoying him in a different way, by STILL WATERS. - 1 93 expressing too great commiseration. It was his fancy^ that evenings to throw off all invalid habits; he insisted that the two ladies should occupy the sofa^ while he set about making the toast and preparing the tea^ amid talk and laughter; and in this way he so much overtasked his strength^ as to bring on a fit of coughing^ which ended in an attack of breathlessness. Miss Perrott was nervous and agitated, and though Isabel was too well-used to these attacks to be so easily alarmed, she was grate- ful for Lord Edward's entrance^ who helped her brother back to the sofa, censured his imprudence, and warned him that if he did not take care, he would be unfit for his journey on the morrow. ' I submit to your tyranny to-night/ replied Da^-id, as soon as he had recovered his voice, ' because it is the last of your reign. To-mor- row I shall do as I please.' ' I am not so sui'e of that,' said Lord Ed- ward^ composedly. ' I am going your way ; and I do not intend to resign my charge until you are fairly landed in Bean-street.' ^Are you really going to Holmdaler' said Isabel, in a tone of genuine satisfaction, not echoed by her brother. VOL. II. o 194 - STILL WATERS. ^ To Dyne Court, of course/ he said. * To a more agreeable place/ replied Lord Edward. ^ The Doctor has invited me to stay with him/ ^ The Doctor !^ repeated Isabel ; ' he has never had any one to stay with him within my recollection.^ ' You must not be too particular about your fare/ added David. 'I suspect he lives on potatoes and buttermilk, and perhaps he may serve up a fried manuscript by way of a deli- cacy ; and you must beware of displacing the contents of a chair when you are tired of standing, for the Doctor loves his books much better than his guests.^ ^Oh, David !' said Isabel; ^ there is no one more kind and hospitable than the Doctor.' ' He means well/ observed Miss Perrott, sen- tentiously, 'but he sadly wants humanizing; and latterly he has been more eccentric than ever.' ' I do not care/ said Isabel ; ' the Doctor is so good as he is, that I do not wish for any change.' ' I quite agree with you,' said Lord Edward, with equal warmth ; ^ and I look forward to my visit with great pleasure.' STILL WATERS. 1 95 * So do not 1/ said David ; ' it defeats my prospects of liberty. I meant to eat and drink^ and talk, and go out as I pleased, with no one to preach prudence. You must have extracted an invitation from the Doctor on false pre- tences; do you profess to have discovered how to square a circle, or to decipher an unknown character V ' I do not know what researches we are to pursue/ said Lord Edward; ^the Doctor has asked me to stay at the School-house, and it was too good an offer to be refused/ Isabel suspected that a letter to Dr. Berke- ley, in which she had mentioned Lord Edward^s influence over her brother, had prompted this invitation ; but she only observed — ' So now you will see Ruth, Lord Edward ; you do not know her at all.^ ^ I have not seen her more than twice,' he replied, ' and I shall be very glad to improve my acquaintance. But I scarcely expected to hear that she was well enough to receive visi- tors.' ' Not ordinary visitors,' said Isabel, with the winning frankness which gave such a charm to her manner ; ' but she will be very glad to see you. She writes that we are to find her in the o % ig6 STILL WATERS. sitting-room^ ready to make tea as usual^ though she has not cared to go down before^ to see all Holmdale. I should not venture to believe her own account of herself if it were not con- firmed by Mr. Ball.' ' If she will only take common care/ ejacu- lated Miss Perrott. ' This illness was entirely brought on by over-exertion/ ' I know/ said Isabel, the quick tears start- ing to her eyes ; ' you need not remind me of that.' '' It was no fault of yours/ said David, with a defiant glance towards Miss Perrott ; ^ no power on earth will prevent some persons from working themselves to death. Only take warn- ing by her fate ; you are becoming as lantem- jawed as Ruth herself.' ^ Never mind my looks/ said Isabel, as she pillowed her oval cheek on David^s hand, with a caressing gesture ; ' if you and Ruth will only make haste to be well, I shall grow rosy too.' STILL WATERS. * 1 97 CHAPTER XIV. Behind him was Reprocli, Eepentaunce, Shame : Reproch the first, Shame next, Repent hehinde : Repentaunce feeble, sorrowful!, and lame ; Reproch despightfull, carelesse, and unkinde ; Shame most ill-favoured, bestiall, and blinde : Shame lowrd, Repentaunce sighd, Reproch did scold ; Reproch sharp stings, Repentaunce whips entwinde; Shame burning brond-yrons in her hand did hold : All three to each unlike, yet all made in one mould. TJie Faerie Qiceene. INSTEAD of awaiting the arrival of her brother and sister, Ruth left her room for the first time since her illness^ early in the day. ' Sure^ miss/ said Sally, who_, after assisting at her toilette, withdrew a few paces in order to see the effect. ' Sure, miss, you had better keep on your white dressing-gown — the black makes you look whiter than ever.^ ^ I must wear it, notwithstanding/ said Kuth, ^ as I am to receive visitors. Dr. Berke- ley is coming to see me to-day.^ ' You don^t look so bad, either,^ said Sally, laying her broad hand on the soft, brown curls 190 STILL WATERS. which clustered over Rutli^s head — all that re- mained of her long hair. ' It is these, I sup- pose, which reminds me of what you were as a young thing/ It was true, as Sally said, that Ruth had recovered a look of youth and freshness ; it might be partly owing to the short curls, which, though peculiar, were not unbecoming, but the transparent delicacy of her complexion had re- turned, and her features had lost their harassed, careworn expression. It was not only the delusion of a lover which inclined Dr. Berkeley to think her beauty more remarkable than it had been in the days of her girlhood, when she rose to greet him with a smile and a blush. He scarcely touched her extended hand, and, after a hurried and nervous inquiry after her health, he seemed unable to proceed. There was an awkward pause, and then Ruth spoke again, in a still, composed voice, which had the effect of restoring his self- possession. ' It is very good of you to come, and you can guess why I was anxious to see you. At least, I feel sure that I did write, though all which happened just before my illness seems like a confused dream .^ STILL WATERS. 1 99 ' Yes, you wrote, and I called on the follow- ing day, to assure you that I would act on your letter; but you were too ill to see me/ ' And so you did no more,^ said E-uth ; and an expression of disappointment, which she tried in vain to conceal, crept over her face. ^ If I thought you could bear the agitation,^ said the Doctor, hesitating. Ruth looked up quickly. ' I can bear any- thing but suspense. Was I right in my con- jecture, and have you seen him, and done what you could to save him from immediate want V '1 did what I could,^ said Dr. Berkeley; ' but he is now beyond the reach of earthly care. The passing-bell this morning was for Richard Clinton.^ ^ It was he, then,' said Ruth, shivering ; and her voice sank almost to a whisper as she added, ^ Did he know anything of Jasper V ' He has heard nothing of him since he left Holmdale ; but be satisfied, Ruth. On that day he saw him, and Jasper is now as clear in the sight of all men as he has ever been in your eyes.-' A gasping sob — a half-uttered expression of thankfulness, broke from Ruth, and she waited breathlessly for further explanation. 200 STILL WATERS. ' I did not think that you would be fit to hear of it to-day/ said Dr. Berkeley, ' and so I have not brought the declaration which was taken down from his lips, in my presence and that of Mr. Dunn. But I can tell you its purport. It seems that Eichard Clinton, after remaining for some time concealed in the colony, worked his way to England in one of the Sydney vessels. He came here in utter destitution, not aware that Mrs. Clinton was gone; and, in hopes of obtaining relief from her, he hung about the obscure parts of the town, not daring to show himself openly, lest he should be recognised. When he heard of Mrs. Clin- ton's departure, he naturally applied to Jasper ; and when he came to the Bed House that morning, and asked to see you alone, it must have been after his first inter\dew with his father.' ' I understand/ said Buth, with white and quivering lips. 'No wonder he looked wild and strange. Yet surely he did not — he could not, even at his father's word, have given up the money.' ' He did not. You know he asked Dunn for the salary due to him without an idea that he should have to draw this money of Sir STILL WATERS. 201 Jolin^s ; but they Tvere in liis pocket-book to- gether^ since Clinton had urged npon him the necessity of recei^'ing immediate relief, -which might enable him to leave the town at once, so that Jasper did not like to lose time in going round by Dunnes house. Clinton caught sight of the gold and notes Tvhen his son drew out his own 2ol., and instantly resolved to possess himseK of it. He proposed that they should share alike^ and take a passage to America, ■where they might make a fresh start in life. Desperate and unscrupulous, he had no hesita- tion in taking by force what Jasper indignantly refused to yield. He -wrenched the packet from the boy^s hand, -who struggled fiercely to regain it, until reminded that the noise of the scuffle would attract attention^ and that he -would then be the cause of his father^s capture. Jasper then tmmed jfrom him -without another word, and -with a look of fixed despair^ by which, the elder Clinton said, he had ever since been haunted.' ^ And there they parted V said Ruth. ^ Yes ; in that very garret-room where you found the father. He went to America,, but nothing prospered with him there ; and he was pursued by the image of the son whose life he £02 STILL WATERS. had blasted, though no other crime of his most unhappy life had awakened the pangs of re- morse. He returned, not so much in the hope of ascertaining Jasper^ s fate, as from a strange desire to see once more the place of their meeting, and there to die/ ' And he is dead/ said Ruth, slowly. ' God is merciful/ replied Dr. Berkeley, answering her thoughts rather than her words ; '^as soon as it appeared that I knew him, his confession was made, unsought by me, and the agony of his remorse was great. But truly such a death is fearful.' Buth could not dwell on the thought, and she reverted to Jasper. ' If he could only know that he is clear .^ Dr. Berkeley could not forbear to shrink a little from this proof that Jasper was still Buth^s first thought, and he answered with some constraint — ' I have done what I could, in putting adver- tisements in the papers, which may meet his eye. And when he learns that the truth is known, we may hope ' but the word choked him, and he changed the construction of the sentence — ' it is not impossible he may return.' ' I was not thinking of that,' said Buth, STILL WATERS. 303 quickly ; ' indeed, I do not know that I wish it. It would be a relief to know that his spirit was no longer crushed by that terrible feeling of dishonour ; but, after all, the disgrace is only transferred to his father, and he could never bear to meet the curious looks and officious sympathy of his old acquaintances here. By this time, I suppose, they all know the story ?' ^ Not through me ; for I wished that you should hear it first. But I thought that Dunn ought to hear Jasper^s justification ; and though the declaration was only made yesterday, he lost no time in telling Sir John — and his wife. And to-day the story is circulating through the town.^ ' Well,^ said Ruth, philosophically, ' at all events, the excitement will subside as soon, or sooner, than when they all called Jasper a mis- guided young man. It is strange — no, not strange, but true, how such an illness as I have had, reduces things to their true proportion.^ ^ You did not need the lesson, Ruth.^ ' No one needed it more,' she replied, ear- nestly ; ' I have been anxious and worried about so many things for others, as well as for myself, which do not really signify, or 204 STILL WATERS. rather which all work for good. This last week has been a great rest^ a sort of landing- place, from which to look back on the journey we have travelled. I don't think I shall feel either pain or pleasui'e as strongly as I did ; life seems so short and so trifling.' ' So all must feel who are brought near to death/ said Dr. Berkeley; ' but when we return to every-day duties the impression must fade. Perhaps it is better that it should.' ^ Perhaps/ said Ruth ; ^ and it is easier to put away carefulness for oneself than for others. T cannot help being anxious about David, and I am sure that Isabel is not satisfied, though she tries to write cheerfully.' ^ Lord Edward gives a better report of him ; and he hopes that his improvement will be more steady when he gets home, for his feverish impatience has been much against him.' ' His mind will work still more when he is here,' said Ruth, with a sigh ; ^ it is very un- fortunate that the Gascoignes are here. But Lord Edward may be able to keep him in order ; it was very good of you to ask him.' * I was glad to be of use,' said the Doctor. ' And now,' added Ruth, ' I ought to rest, that I may be fresh for the travellers. Thank STILL WATERS. 205 YOU SO mucli for all you liaYe done^ and espe- cially for tliis Yisit ; it has been like one of our sober^ old-fashioned talks, and I hope you haYe enjoyed it as much as I haYe/ ' Too much^ ^liss Lennox ; I belieYe that I ought to forego the enjoyment until I have schooled myself to prize it less/ And the Doctor hurried away, leading Ruth to lament that her hope of returning to their former easy friendship was still so far from its accomplishment. Ruth was not reserYing all her strength for the meeting with her brother and sister^ for she thought it expedient to haYe her first visit from Clara before theu' return, and she expected her to call that afternoon. Accord- ingly, as it was growing dusk, the sweep of a carriage round the comer was followed by the familiar sound of the spirited horses^ caracole, when checked in then- course ; and Clara pre- sently entered the room, her cheeks glowing with pleasant excitement, as much perhaps as with the freshness of the outer air. ' How good of you to see me '/ she exclaimed, throwing her arms round Ruth. ^ That Cer- berus of yours has been so impracticable that I hai'dly Ycntured to ask for admittance, and 2C6 STILL WATERS. she said 'Yes^ as meekly as possible. How charming you look ! only ill enough to be in- teresting, with those dear, quaint, little curls; I have half a mind to set up a fever too, in order to try the effect/ Ruth only smiled, and Clara rattled on — ' You try to look stern, but it will not do ; you are not strong enough, and so you must be amiable for once in your life. I have so much to say that I hardly know where to begin. And first, tell me about Mr. Lennox/ ^ He is rather better ; they are on their way home to-day, and I expect them in about an hour.' ' By the five o'clock train ? Then the best plan will be to send the carriage to the station, and I can wait here till it comes back ; it will be smoother and more comfortable for Mr. Lennox.' Ruth declined the offer; she said that she had ordered a fly, which would do well enough, and she did not wish to keep Clara out so late. ^ You think me a dangerous person,' said Clara, with an arch smile. ' I have reason to think so,' Ruth answered, gravely. STILL WATERS. 207 ' Not noWj Ruth^ indeed. I confess tliat I did flirt a little^ the very least in the world_, with Mr. Lennox at the York gaieties^ but he might have known that it was only because I was piqued with Evelyn. That is all right now ; I have had the most charming letter, begging me to make papa more reasonable^ for he has been quite disagreeable about his debts^ as if young men were not always extravagant. He says that it is all nonsense about Miss Thoma- son, and he has sold out, and is to be in England this very night. He will come down here at once, and he wants me to fix the wedding-day. Now that I am sm'e he cares for me, I don^t mean to flirt with any one, so you see Mr. Lennox is quite safe.^ ^ Eor the future,^ said Ruth ; ^ but you seem to forget that the past cannot be undone. How- ever, there is no use talking about it, only I wish you to keep away from the house while he is here.' ^ I shall not want you so much when I have Evelyn,' replied Clara ; ' but I must see you now and then; and surely Mr. Lennox is able to take care of himself, now that he has fair warning that I mean to flirt no more. Now don't look so grave, Ruth; he will soon re- 2o8 STILL WATERS. cover his disappointment. The Forlorn Hope is quite cured, and his complaint "«as of much longer standing/ ' If you -svill talk so lightly, Clara, I would rather talk of something else/ ' So we will. I have to comment on your own affairs, but Evelyn^s news put everything else out of my head ; I wish you joy of your hero. Mr. Dunn says that the whole town is ringing with his praises, and even his prosaic mind was excited by this eclair cissement. The best part of the story is !Mr. Clinton^s coming home to die so conveniently, for one would not feel easy as long as there was the contingency of such a beau pere tm-ning up at any moment.^ The mischievous remark did not call even a passing blush to Ruth^s cheek. She only said, though T\ith little hope of checking Clara^s levity — ' If you had seen his face of remorse and misery, you could not talk thus of his death.^ ^ So you reaUy saw him,^ said Clara, with eager interest. ^ Mr. Dunn said something about it, but I could not understand the story .^ ' I found him in a cottage in my district,' said Pbuth, ^ and guessed who he was. But I STILL WATERS. 209 would rather not talk about it^ for it is like a dream wliich haunted me all the while I was ill. Don^t you think you had better go home before it gets colder ?^ ^ And you want to get rid of me before the arrival/ said Clara, rising. ' AYellj I will go ; and to please you I mean to ignore Mr. Len- nox's existence, and to make myself as dis- agreeable as possible when we meet. But I suppose I may send you some grapes as usual, and if you like to share them with him there is no harm done ; how long is he to stay V ' I do not know ; I am afraid that he is very far from being fit for duty.' ^ He will soon be well/ said Clara, confi- dently; 'perhaps Evelyn's appearance may act as a tonic. Good-bye, ma mie ; if yon had not driven me away, I meant to have helped you to compose an advertisement to ' Jasper/ for the second column of the Times. Your initials or mine would have a better efiect than the Doc- tor's.' VOL. II. 2 TO STILL WATERS. CHAPTER XV. I only know I loved you once ; I only know I loved in vain : Our hands have met, but not our hearts ; Our hands will never meet again. Hood. ' TTAYE you seen Miss Gascoigne, Rutli?' J-J- said David. He only waited to ask the question until Lord Edward had gone to the School-house, while Isabel went up-stairs to take off her bonnet. ' Yes ; she was here this afternoon/ answered Kuth^ pausing for a moment before she felt sufficiently hard-hearted to dasb the hopes expressed by David's eager _, listening attitude, as he raised himself from the sofa on which he so wearily reclined. ^ She was in great spirits, for she heard from Captain Gascoigne that he will most likely be at Dyne Court to-morrow.' ' He will, will he V — and the words escaped from David as if much of no pleasant import remained unsaid. He sank back on his pillows, and scarcely spoke again for the rest of the STILL WATEES. 211 evening. He complained of headache^ and would eat no tea; but an impartial observer might have said that he was suffering as much from ill-humour as from ill-health. He evinced no interest in the conversation between the sisters, and even the account of Jasper's ex- culpation, and of Ruth's inter ^dew with the father, passed without comment. As they went up to bed, Isabel asked eagerly, ' Well, what do you think of him T and Ruth could only answer with a sigh, that she hoped he might be better on the morrow. Da^id said that he ivas better next morning. Ruth had consented to breakfast in her own room, and Isabel tried to persuade her brother to do the same; but he insisted on coming down-stairs. He declared that he felt fresh and well, only ravenously hungry ; but, after making Isabel hasten breakfast, he found fault with everything. And when Isabel bestirred herself to find something he could eat, he im- patiently pushed aside his plate. ' There, that will do. I have had quite enough, and I shall go out in search of an appetite for dinner. It is a pity to lose the fine part of the day.' ^It does not look fine now,' said Isabel, p 2 2I2J STILL WATERS. glancing at the scrap of leaden sky visible between two blocks of chimneys. ' If we wait for an hour the sun may come out, and then we can take a turn below our own old south wall. I have a key of the garden-gate_, so that we need not encounter the Dunns.^ ' I shall do no such thing/ said David. ' I am quite tilled of playing the invalid, and I shall go out for a ride. A good scamper over the country will freshen me, especially after sitting in this close room. You have made up such a fire that it is quite intolerable.^ He had complained of feeling chilly a moment before. ^ But you have no horse, Da\id.^ ' I can hire one, however. There is a very respectable hack at the Blue Boar^ which will carry me as far as I need to go.^ Isabel knew now where he was going, and she knew also that remonstrance would be in vain ; yet she made one more effort. ^ Lord Edward will be here soon,^ she said, timidly, ^ and he will be able to tell us what sort of a day it is.^ ^Very likely; he will tell us that the wind is from the east, that there has been frost, and that there will be rain. I don^t care for past. STILL WATERS. 21 3 present^ or future, for I am weary of all this coddling/ *^At least_, wait till Ruth comes down/ 'There is no use waiting. I shall see her when I come home/ And David snatched up his hat and gloves, impatiently rejected the additional neckerchief which his sister prof- fered, and departed. Isabel looked after him, as well as her tears would permit, and pondered with a swelling. heart on the change which the last few weeks had wrought. There was scarcely a trace remaining of his gay, courteous manner, softened into especial tenderness in his intercourse with his favourite sister. If any one but Lord Edward had surprised her in this fit of crying, she would have been a good deal discomposed ; but she was so en- tirely at her ease with him, that it was a relief rather than an effort to confide to him the cause of her unhappiness, not even withholding her suspicions that he had gone to Dyne Court. ' He looked so feverish and ill,' she said ; ^and if he gets wet, it must bring on his cough.' ' I do not think it will rain,' said Lord Edward. He could think of nothing more 214 STILL WATERS. consoling to say ; but there are times when we do not desire consolation, and this was IsabeFs present mood. ^I meant/ she said, ^to be quite content when I got him safe home, especially as Ruth is so much better ; yet everything seems more cheerless than ever/ ' ' Be still, sad heart, and cease repining/ ^ said Lord Edward, with a grave smile. There was no need to finish the quotation. ^ I know,^ said Isabel, quickly, ' I am very ungrateful.' And she walked to the window to hide the gathering tears. Lord Edward presently followed her. ' If you can tell me where to find a horse. Miss Lennox, I can ride after your brother and easily overtake him before he reaches Dyne Court. Then I may at least persuade him to return in good time.' ^ Thank you,' said Isabel, colouring j ' it would be only painful to you.' ^Not in the least,' said Lord Edward, de- cidedly. He never omitted the opportunity of bringing forward his entire indifference to Clara. ^ But I am afraid that I have tutored Lennox until he is beginning to run restive.' * Yes j I believe it would do no good,' said STILL WATERS. 215 Isabel^ remembering the irritation with which David had so lately spoken of Lord Edward's interference. ' Perhaps he may find out for himself how unfit he is for ridings and turn back/ Lord Edward acquiesced ; and since he could help Isabel in no other way, it seemed to him that he could not do better than pass the morning with her_, in hopes of beguiling her thoughts. In the meanwhile David took the nearest road to Dyne Court, mounted on the ' respect- able hack^ furnished by the Blue Boar. Isabel had not spoken too hardly of the day ; a chilling thaw had succeeded to the frost and snow of the preceding week, the roads were sodden, and the air damp and raw. David shivered, and wished for the rejected neckerchief ; and after urging his unwilling beast to a trot, he was unable to keep it up, on account of failure of breath, and renewed pain in his side. Before he reached Dyne Court the excitement of fever had given place to a languid depression, both of mind and body. He rode into the stables by the back entrance, and left his horse there, after ascertaining that Miss Gascoigne was at home. He had just reached the colonnade 2l6 STILL WATERS. \^ lien his progress was arrested by the sound of Clara^s voice^ and he passed on from behind the column which intercepted his view of her com- panion. Clara was hanging on the arm of Evelyn Gascoigne^ her upturned face glowing with a bright and speaking happiness^ very different from the careless coquetry which he had vainly construed into an expression of equal or deeper feeling. David saw and acknowledged the difference, and at that moment the hope which he had so wilfully cherished, died within him, with a pang of such acute suffering as those only may com- prehend who have experienced the same. His first impulse was to turn and fly, his next to advance with an unflinching step; and this he did, but with a countenance so wild and haggard that Clara drew back in alarm, while Evelyn exclaimed — ^ Good heavens, Lennox ! is that you ? You are the last person I expected to see.^ ' I might say the same,^ rejoined David. ' So I can believe,^ said Evelyn, with a mean- ing smile, which animated David with sufficient strength to have felled his rivaV to the ground, powerless as he had felt a moment before. Clara saAV the fierce lis'ht ffleamino^ in his STILL WATEES. 217 eveSj and interposed witli the playful decision Tvliich was, even now, irresistible. ' Now confess, Mr. Lennox, that you had not Ruth^s sanction to come so far the day after your journey ? You must go home at once.^ ' I will go, since you desire it, Miss Gas- coigne. I came to see you, not aware that you were otherwise engaged.^ ^ There is such a thing as wilful ignorance,^ Evelyn began, with some haughtiness ; but as David^s eyes again flashed fire, he changed his tone. He was successful, and success can afibrd to be magnanimous. ' You had better come into the house and rest, and Clara will order the carriage to take you home; you look miserably ill, and quite unfit to ride.^' ^ Do come in, Mr. Lennox,^ said Clara, in a pleading tone, which seemed to sting him to madness. He turned upon her one glance of reproachful bitterness, and strode away. ^ I will follow him, to see that he does not get into mischief,-' said Evelyn, after a mo- ment's pause. ' No ; do not,' said Clara, clinging to him ; * you will only quarrel.' ^ Foolish child !' said Evelyn ; *" do you think I cannot take care of myself?' He attempted 21 8 STILL WATERS. to sliake her off, but sLe only clung tlie closer ; and, flattered by her anxiety, he sufiered David to go his own way, and they continued to pace the colonnade. ^ So he is another of your victims/ he re- sumed, in a tone between jest and earnest ; 'certainly it was high time for me to come home/ ' If you had not stayed away so long,' re- joined Clara, ' I should have had nothing to do with him ; and he might have known me well enough to see that I never cared for him in the least/ ' Then I am to understand that you gave him no encouragement for this fresh acces of love V Clara felt that her ground was not very defensible, so she attempted to carry the attack into the enemy's country. ' I don't suppose that I flirted with him half so much as you did with Laura Thomason/ ' Possibly not,' said Evelyn, coolly ; ' but I may do many things which are not expedient for you. If you choose to be the talk of the county as a notorious and heartless coquette, well and good ; only, it must not be as my afii- anced bride. So you may take your choice.' STILL WATERS. 31 9 ' Oh, Evelyn V '■ I am thorouglily in earnest. We have had enough of this intimacy with the Lennoxes ; and_, at all events_, \vhile David is at home I will not have you always running into Holm- dale to see the young ladies^ or on any pretext whatever. Do you understand V ^ Yes/ Clara answered_, low and suhmissively. Truly that untamed spirit^ so impatient of the lightest check, had at last found its master. 220 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER XVI. La vita fugge, e non s'arresta un'ora : E la morte vien dietro a gran giornate : E le cose present!, e le passate Mi danno giierra, e le future ancora. Peteaeca. ONE bright and balmy clay in March^ when the first breath of spring was laden with sweet fragrance, calling forth the song of the winter-thrush, and swelling the buds of the horse-chestnut, Ruth walked out of the town into one of the country roads ; and, as some- times before, she had not gone far before she was overtaken by the Dyne Court barouche. Nothing, however, roused her from her abstrac- tion until she was startled by Clara herself, who instantly alighted, and seized her hand in both of hers, as she exclaimed — ' At last ! I have longed so much to see you, and I began to despair/ ' It was good of you not to come,' said Ruth. * Nothing that you said kept me away, only STILL WATERS. 321 — however^ I will tell you about it presently. Where are you going ?' ^ To the hazel copse to look for primroses.^ ^I will go with you. Please let me go/ Clara added, pleadingly ; ' you will not tell Mr. Lennox, and no one else will know.^ They had reached the footpath leading to the copse in question, and she scarcely waited for Ruth^s permission before she led the way over the stile, directing the carriage to drive on and wait for her at the turnpike. ^ And now,^ she said, twining her arm round Ruth, ' tell me about your brother. I hardly dare ask at home, for both papa and Evelyn look reproachful, and answer as if it was my fault. I believe they make the worst of it on purpose to vex me ; or is he really so ill V ^ He is very weak,^ said Euth ; ' he has never been out of his room, hardly out of bed, since that ride to Dyne Court six weeks ago.^ ' You, too, Ruth ! it is not fair to cast up that ride against me, as if I had asked him to come.^ ' I did not mean to blame you, Clara ; you best know what encouragement you gave him ; but at any rate that is at an end now, and though you disclaimed my thanks just now, I 222 STILL WATERS. must repeat liow glad I am that you have kept aloof since that interview/ ^ You must thank Evelyn/ said Clara ; ' it is his doing/ There was a touch of irony in her tone_, and Kuth answered gravely — ' I think he is quite right/ ' Oh_, perfectly right ; only you know that I am not used to be chidden and tutored like a naughty child, and I donH quite like it. Though T should not mind/ she added, while tears, which rarely dimmed the brightness of her beauty, started to her eyes, ' if I believed that he loved me ; but he does not care enough about me to be jealous ; he only thinks of the eyes of the world, and wishes me to act accord- ingly/ ' Which you have forgotten now, or you would not talk so recklessly,^ said Ruth. ^ It is only to you, Ruth ; and even Evelyn, little as he understands you, would not take your eyes for those of the world; besides, I must have my talk out now, for it is my last opportunity. You know we are to be married upon Lady-day ; and then I shall ^ love, honour, and obey,^ as in duty bound.^ ^ Duty is a law you have never yet obeyed. STILL WATERS. 223 Clara/ said Ruth^ but very gently. She was grieved by tbe excitement of Clara^s manner, which told how forced her spirits were. They entered the copse as she spoke; bnt Clara wonld not allow her to begin her search for primroses, and made her sit doAvn beside her on a fallen tree. She made no dii'ect reply to this last observation, but continued to con- fide her griefs. ' It has been such a wearisome time, espe- cially since Aunt Eliza and the young ladies came. They always regarded me with virtuous horror; and Aunt Eliza does not like me any better for being her destined daughter-in-law, thinking, I imagine, that I corrupted Evelyn's morals. And I have had a hard time with papa, who has changed his mind about the marriage, and almost wanted to break it off when he learned what his debts were ; if the said debts were not rather pressing, I believe that Evelyn himself would have no objection. Then there has been so much to arrange ; ques- tions about the rooms, the wedding-breakfast, and the trousseau ; and I have been so worried at having to decide everything for myself, for there was no use asking papa, when he was put out already, and Evelyn takes no interest iu 224 STILL WATERS. the matter. Oh, Euth ! I sometimes think that if mamma were alive, it would all be very different/ And the cheek which Clara pressed against Euth's was wet with tears. Euth had never before seen her in such a mood j and before she had determined how to treat it, Clara became impatient of her silence. ^ Talk to me, Euth ; I want to be scolded, and petted into good-humour again.^ ' If you really want advice ,' said E.uth, slowly. ' I do really want advice, though I don^t engage to follow it.^ 'Well, then, I think it would be better to follow Sir John^s wishes.^ ' And give up Evelyn P said Clara, vehe- mently. ' Oh no ! it is too late now. Even papa would not like it, now that the wedding- day is fixed ; and, besides, I love him too well.^ ' And yet you believe that he does not care for you.^ ' Not as I do for him ; but still we shall get on very well. We understand each other, and I shall not expect too much ; and there is no one half so pleasant, you must allow that, Euth.^ ' I do not know him welV said Euth, too STILL WATERS. 225 much relieved to escape the responsibility Tvhich Clara had seemed disposed to thrust upon her, to wonder at the versatility of her humour. ' 'Well, you shall know him some day, when INIr. Lennox is well, and all these disagreeables forgotten. And, by the way, tell me about Isabel. Evelyn said that they met accidentally the other day ; that he at all events need have nothing on his conscience, since she looked more beautiful than ever — am I not magnani- mous to repeat the compliment ? — and perfectly cool and unconcerned.^ Ruth had heard nothing of this meeting, and she could not think that IsabePs silence respecting it arose from the indifference ascribed to her. She felt indignant, and it cost her an effort to answer calmly. ' Perhaps it was well for Isabel that her troubles did not come alone, and that she is too much absorbed in David^s illness to tliink of herself. She is very good and reasonable, however, in taking regular exercise, and I should like to gather my primroses, and get back before it is too late for her to go out.^ '^Not just yet,^ said Clara, detaining her. ^ I have one or two more thinsjs to ask. ^Aliat has been the result of the Doctor^s VOL. II. Q 2 26 STILL WATERS. advertisement ? I don^t know if there lias been time to hear from California/ ' I told yon/ said Rath_, ' that I did not expect Jasper to answer the advertisement, even though he may be mnch nearer than California/ ^Then, perhaps^ yon have left off caring abont it. For you look stronger than you used to do, and prettier, though you have put away those bewitching little curls. I am quite sorry that your hair has begun to grow already/ ^Really, Clara/ said Knth, impatientty, Mf you have nothing more important to sa}^ you may let me go.^ ' Indeed, I have something very important to say. Is it true that Lord Edward was here for three weeks, that he is coming back again, and that he is a Forlorn Hope no longer ?' ' The Doctor asked him to spend the Easter vacation with him. I am not certain whether he is coming or no.' ^ That is a meagre answer, Ruth ; and you blushed — you positively did. You cannot pre- tend that the Doctor is his only attraction. I congratulate you, and I am sorry that I did STILL WATERS. 227 not make him over to you long ago, as I had some thoughts of doing. I ahvays thought that YOU would suit each other, though the combination may be too serious for the rest of the world. And Lady Edward is such a pretty title.' Ruth looked annoyed, and answered shortly, ' How can you talk so absurdly ? — there never was anything more unfounded.' ' Then you are constant to the gold-digger ? It is too hard that Lord Edward should be disappointed again.' ' There is no disappointment in the case. Lord Edward thinks as little of me as I do of him.' ^ Then, does he think of any one else ? — Surely, it cannot be Isabel ! Ah, I see by yom' face that I have guessed right,' ^ And so you may go home to spread the idle report,' said Ruth, as she arose from her seat ; ' and you can leave me to gather prim- roses alone.' ' No, Ruth,' said Clara, hanging round her ; ' we must not part so. I will go if you like, but not till you have promised to remember me sometimes.' ' I am not likely to forget,' said Ruth. Q 2 228 STILL WATERS. ' You mean to remember in how many ways I have teased and thwarted you/ ' No, I do not, Clara — at least I shall think how we have contrived to love each other through it all/ ' That is so like you, Ruth, and so dear. And only one thing more. It is not my fault if the Holm dale bells ring a peal on Lady-day. I wanted to say that we did not wish it ; but he said that would be particular and absurd. And so I tell you, that you may not think me more unfeeling than I really am. Good-bye, dear, dearest Ruth V ' Good-bye,^ said Ruth, gently unclasping the entwining arms which locked her in Clara^s fast embrace. As Clara slowly turned away, she watched the slight, girlish figure with sad forebodings, and thought how, in the attain- ment of her cherished hope, its bright promise had crumbled into ashes. She knew Clara well enough to fear that she would only seek to still the cravings of an aching and disappointed heart with the husks which do not satisfy, and all which remained true and lovable in her nature must soon be frittered away. But Ruth remembered that she had come to gather primroses, and not to moralize, and she STILL WATERS. 229 set about the searcli in earnest. She was tolerably successful ; and she considered herself well rewarded by the brightening smile with which David took the bunch from her hand, and said that it was fresh and sweet. 'He looks better this afternoon/ said Isabel, who was working at the foot of the couch ; and the tone in which the he was spoken, justified Ruth's assertion that all her sister's earthly hopes and fears were centered in that sick room, A return of inflammation of the lungs had been the consequence of David's imprudent ride to Dyne Court; and though the more alarming symptoms had passed away, great prostration of strength remained, together with so much languor and depression, that it seemed as if the mind and body reacted on each other, and he wanted energy to be well. His doctor urged him to leave Holmdale, and seek some warmer climate, as soon as he was fit to travel ; but that time had not arrived. He could not be induced to leave his room, or to see any one but his sisters ; and though listening to their conversation with a languid interest, he seldom exerted himself to join in it. Mr. Ball directed that he should be roused as much 230 STILL WATERS. as possible ; and the sisters learned to talk over the small events of the day with an assumed animation which it was often difficult enough to sustain. This afternoon^ however, Ruth could not impart to him the incident of her walk_, and the pauses between disjointed re- marks on the early spring, the westerly wind, and the new paving of Bean-street, became longer and longer, until silence reigned al- together. Isabel spoke again to say that she must go out, and as a matter of duty the exertion was made. She put on her bonnet and cloak with all speed, and timed herself so as to be back within the hour prescribed as necessary for air and exercise. Every minute passed out of David^s room seemed to her so much waste of life. When there was no third person to mark the effect of her words, E-uth acted on her im- pulse to tell of her walk with Clara, feeling that if it was expedient to rouse him from his languor, nothing was likely to do so more effec- tually. Accordingly she began, in a voice as calm and steady as if it was a matter of un- concern to both — STILL WATERS. 23 r '^The Gascoigne marriage is fixed for Lady- day.' ' TVho told you V said Da^4d, shading his eyes with his hand, as if the light was too strong for him. So at least Ruth chose to in- terpret the gesture, and she rose and di*ew down the blind. ^ Clara herself. I saw her to-day for the first time.' ' And how was she looking V ' Xot so bright as usual ; and there is some- thing touching, poor child, in the way she seems to feel the want of a mother at this time. I never heard her allude to it before. She asked after you.' ' She did ?' There was a nervous action of the hands which David had clasped across his temples ; and then he added, querulously, ^ There was no use telling me the day, Ruth. I would rather not have known it.' ' Then I am sorry I told you,' she replied ; •^ but I thought you might find it easier to bear things which you know to be inevitable.' ' That is so like one of your refinements — as if I had the option of bearing them or not.' 233 STILL WATERS. ' About the way of bearing them_, tlien^ David/ ^ It is all the same thing/ He was silent for some moments^ and then resumed — ' I wonder if I shall be well enough to leave this place before the 25th/ This was the first time that David had con- templated the possibility of mo^dng, and Ruth thought it a good sign. ' Perhaps you may/ she said, ^ if you gather strengtli as fast as I did when I began to mend/ ' You may well say if. For now it seems that I lose, rather than gain ground. What does Ball tell you ? More, I imagine, than that I am getting on as well as I can expect/ Ruth was again pleased with the awakening energy which prompted the question, and she thought it best to give the doctor's opinion without reserve. ' He is not satisfied/ she said ; ^ he feels that you have made no decided rally from your illness.' ' He think me in a bad way/ said David, with a short laugh. ^ Well, I have not found life so pleasant that I care greatly about pro- longing it, and I shall not be much missed/ STILL WATERS. 233 ' You would not say so^ if you thought of Isabel, David/ Ruth would not speak, and, indeed, she scarcely thought, of herself. ' Isabel will care. I understand her wistful looks now, poor child. And how long does he give me?' ' Oh, David, how can you speak so lightly ? I have longed so much in all this illness to see your thoughts turned towards Him ' Who bringeth down to the grave, and raiseth up.^ ' ' It is easy for you, Ruth,^ David answered, hastily ; ^ for you have thought of nothing else. But when a man's life has been taken up with such a vision as mine, and then with the ruin and disappointment which followed, he wall be haunted by such cares to the end. You can bear witness that I was more moved to hear of Clara's wedding-day than that I was dying.' ' Because,' said Ruth, ^ you do not certainly know that you are dying, no more do I. I told you honestly of our anxiety; not that you might make light of it, but to prepare you for what may be, and to rouse you to use all means of recovery. Mr. Ball has said repeatedly that the symptom he likes least, is your list- lessness and indifference about yourself ^ I am indifferent/ said David, briefly. 234 STILL WATEES. ' Xot really ; you "^ill not find it so when death is near. The most holy and the most unhappy shrink alike from anticipating that hour/ ' Not if they have nothing left to live for/ ^ We all live that we may learn to die/ re- plied Ruth. David looked up quickly. ^ You think me thcD so bad^ Ruth V ' I only mean that we can none of us feel that we are ready, until God calls us. And, dear David, you will not say again that you have nothing to live for when you think that you are all which is left to us — to poor Isabel, whose spirits are already so broken.^ 'I am a useless and unsatisfactory posses- sion,^ said David ; but the words were not spoken in the same sullen tone as before. Ruth thought it best not to prolong the con- versation. She gave him one long and tender kiss, and left the room. STILL WATERS. 235 CHAPTER XVII. What does not man grieve down ? From tlie highest, As from the vilest thing of every day, He learns to wean himself; for the strong hours Conquer him. Coleridge's Wallenstein. nnHAT conversation bore fruits. With all -■- his professed weariness of life, David was startled to think that death might be near, as well as by E.utVs warning, spoken with such loving courage, that he was not prepared to meet it. And as no one, checked in the full tide of youth and vigour, requires to be con- vinced by many arguments that life is a gift worth retaining, his professed indifference passed away, and Isabel herself did not mark his progress towards recovery with greater anxiety. And progress was made ; very gradual, and in some measui'e retarded by this very anxiety, since he was unduly depressed by an occasional return of fever or failure of appe- tite ; still he regained strength, Mr. Ball ceased to speak despondingly, and hope lighted up 235 STILL WATERS. IsabePs eyes once more. The change in David's manner was cause enough for satis- faction ; instead of passively submitting to his sisters' unwearied attendance^ he seemed really to enjoy having them with him^ and he treated Isabel with something of his former playful tenderness. Kuth was not content only, but thankful, to take the second place, and to feel that her companionship was only needed when Isabel was not at hand ; for she knew that such intercourse as they now enjoyed was best both for her brother and sister, and she could re- joice in their joy. So the days went on to Lady-day, and David, though still too weak to leave the house, had made the important step of coming down-stairs. He had not made his appearance, however, when the church-bells rang out a merry peal ; and as the clang fell on Isabel's ear, she felt so much on his account that she never for a moment thought of herself She looked up anxiously when he entered ; he was pale from the exertion of dressing, but other- wise much as usual, and going towards him, she slipped her hand within his. ' So that is the wedding-peal,' David said, walking to the window with the slow, cautious STILL WATERS. 237 step which betrays weakness. ^ Will they come through Holmdale T ^ I don't know where they are going/ re- joined Isabel. David looked up to the blue sky. ' She was so sure to have a bright day.' ^ It is too bright to last.' ' That sounds ominous, Isabel.' ^ I did not mean it/ she answered, hastily. ' And, after all, you have as much right to rue the day as I. Shall we be magnanimous, and wish them joy ?' ^ Them, and myself too, if you please,' said Isabel, with the proud flashing glance ever caUed forth by any allusion to Evelyn Gas- coigne. ^I am not so strong-minded,' said David, with something between a smile and a sigh; ^though, perhaps, in time I may be able to see that things are better as they are. We must return to the old days, when we dreamed of being all in all to each other.' ' Those were happy days, David.' 'Then you are satisfied to spend your life with a cross-grained bachelor-brother ?' ^ More than satisfied,' Isabel answered, cling- ing closer to his side. She little dreamed how 238 STILL WATERS. soon her professions were to be put to the test. At this moment Lord Edward quite unex- pectedly walked in. ^ Have you come down express from Lon- don to attend the wedding V David asked. He was in a mood when it was easier to make jesting allusions to the subject than to be altogether silent. *" Happily,, I was not invited/ said Lord Edward. ' Then you wonld have thought it necessary to go, to prove your equanimity V ' Or my indifiPerence/ said Lord Edward, carelessly. ' I was only glad to escape, be- cause a wedding is always a tiresome affair.^ ^ But yon have not told us what brought you here/ said Isabel. ^ Cannot you take it for granted that I have come to see you and Lennox ? He looks much better than I expected, and does more credit to your nursing than he did to mine.^ ' Does he not look well V said Isabel, com- placently ; ^ and he is such an excellent patient/ ^ Because Isabel is such an amiable nurse/ said David ; ^ not near so aggravating as you STILL WATERS. 239 ^But you have not yet told us/ persisted Isabel, ^ what brings you here so soon. Has the House adjourned already?^ ' No ; but the bill in which I was interested has passed through committee, and I was tired of London. The Doctor told me that I might come back whenever I pleased, and I have taken him at his word. Where is Miss Lennox V ' Not at the wedding,' said David. ' You looked almost afraid to ask. I suppose she is up-stairs, busy about some household matters.' ' Then I shall wait till she comes down. The Doctor wdll be in school, so there is no use going on there at present.' * No, he will not,' said Isabel, quickly. ' Sir John asked for a holiday.' ^ Sit down, however,' said Da^dd, ' and tell me the news. I want to be amused.' And Lord Edward waited for no second invitation. ' I want to hear your news first,' he said. ' Is it true that you are going abroad ?' ' Yes ', at least, if I get the additional sick- leave for which I have applied. We are to break up our establishment here, and all go together, to Germany and Switzerland.' ' Will it not be pleasant V said Isabel. ' We had some difficulty in persuading Euth to agree 240 STILL WATEES. to the plan, for she wanted me to go and take care of David ; but we would not hear of her being left behind; and^ when once she is up- rooted^ I dare say she will enjoy it. Oh ! I hope it is not wrong to be as glad as I am to leave Holmdale/ ^ I don't wonder you are glad/ said Lord Edward ; but he did not appear to share her satisfaction. ^ How long are you to be away V he added. ' Nothing is settled/ said David ; ^ but if my regiment is, as I hear, to be moved to Malta, I want my sisters to go on with me to winter there. Since they have no ties to Eng- land, they may as well see a little of the world.' ^Are you looking forward to next winter already ?' ' Why, my dear Lynmere,' said David, laugh- ing, ^ you forget what it is to have the cares of a family — you who live in chambers and keep a servant who does not even allow you to decide what waistcoat you will wear. Since I have been well enough to think of moving, we have talked of nothing but the household arrange- ments, which make it necessary to determine how long my sisters are likely to be away.' *As you say,' rejoined Lord Edward, ' I can- STILL WATEES. 24 1 not enter into these details. I suppose_, Miss Lennox, that you have been too much occupied by them to take any interest in politics/ ' No, indeed/ said Isabel. ^ I made a point of reading all the debates in which your name appeared. Did I not_, David ?^ ' So sedulously/ answered her brother, ^ that I was a little afraid of her becoming a female politician/ ' There is no danger/ said Lord Edward ; ' she is not the stuff of which they are made. I hope, Miss Lennox, that we coincide in opinion.^ ' Not always,^ said Isabel ; ^ however, I liked to read your views, for there is an air of reality about the speech of a person one knows.' Ruth came in, and Lord Edward stayed talk- ing imtil dinner was announced ; and his ready assent to David's imitation to partake of it did not evince his usual consideration for the Doctor, who was prepared to receive his guest by the arrival of his portmanteaUj. and sat waiting for him at home. They were in the act of crossing the passage into the little dining-room, when Sally opened the house- door, and a voice, familiar enough to all but Ruth, inquired for Mr. Lennox. VOL. II. B. 242 STILL WATERS. ^ Oh^ Raeburn, is that you V said David. ^ Wori^t you come in ?^ ^ May I ?' he replied^ talking into the pas- sage without waiting for a reply. ^ Ruth^ Lord Raeburn/ continued David. ' You know Isabel, I think .^ And Lord Rae- burn turned towards her with a smile of de- lighted recognition. Isabel shook hands com- posedly, while her thoughts travelled back to the time and place where she had last seen him — in the colonnade at Dyne Court. ^ We were just going in to our early dinner/ said Ruth ; ' will you have any luncheon ?' ' I shall be very happy ; a wedding is always a hungry affair, and I shirked the breakfast on the plea of important business, which was nothing else than to call and ask after you, Lennox.^ ' I am much honoured,^ said David. ' So you have come from the wedding ; how did it go off V ' Oh, very well,^ said Lord Raeburn, draw- ing in a chair; and to Isabels great indigna- tion selecting the best slice of the boiled chicken, which was to be David^s dinner. ' It was rather heavy, as a wedding is apt to be, except to the principals; and they did not ap- STILL WATERS. 243 pear to enjoy it particularly. Gascoigne looked as mucli bored as was consistent with good breeding, mnch more so than was consistent with his good luck. Clara was nervous, though I thought she had brass enough for anything.^ *" Did she — was she looking well V said David. ' Xerj pretty^ of course ; she could not well look otherwise; and she is generally so much overdressed that the simple white was more than usually becoming ; but I do not care for that style of beauty.^ And he glanced signi- ficantly towards Isabel, who haughtily turned her head aside to speak to Lord Edward. With rather perverse self-torture_, Da^id de- manded further particulars of the wedding ; and when it appeared that Lord Raeburn had little more to tell, he subsided into silence, and left to others the task of entertaining his visitor. Lord Raeburn was disposed to devote himself to Isabel^ but he was baffled by her brief and distant replies; and he presently took leave, deciding that all her beauty did not atone for the haughty disdain which made it impossible to get up even a passing flirtation. ' Such a conceited, assuming fellow,' said Lord Edward, before the door was fairly closed. R 2 244 STILL WATERS. ^ I never saw anything so cool as tlie way he invited himself to luncheon ; I heard your ser- vant tell him that you were just going in to dinner/ ' Why, really, Lynmere/ said David, amused by his unwonted vehemence, ^ I may remark, without meaning anything uncivil, you and Raeburn stand on much the same footing, as far as luncheon is concerned/ ' Oh no, David,^ said Isabel ; ^ Lord Edward is quite different/ ^ Thank you,^ he said, turning quickly round ; ^ would you mind explaining the distinction V * It is not fair to ask for a compliment,^ said Isabel, colouring ; ' you know that I don^t like Lord Kaeburn/ ' From which we are to infer whom you do like,^ said David. ' Lynmere ought to cry ^ hear, hear V and certainly that information was gratuitous, for, if we did not know it before, your manner made it sufficiently evident that he is no favourite. You were very ungracious.' As soon as dinner was over, Ruth went to put on her bonnet, for she had resumed her work in the Netherton, though on a more moderate scale. Lord Edward asked permis- sion to accompany her there on liis way to the STILL WATERS. 245 Scliool-house ; and thougli it ^as exactly out of the way, Ruth made no objection^ and they set out together. ' I wanted to explain/ he said, with startling abruptness, before they had gone many paces, ' what has brought me again so soon. Your sister ' ' Yes/ said Ruth, with a smile. ' And you wish me success V ' I do.' ' Thank you.' And the eagerness with which Lord Edward clasped her hand expressed even more than his words. ' But/ continued Ruth, ^ I am sure that you will only distress and startle Isabel if you speak to her now.' ^ You mean that she does not care for me/ Lord Edward said, with a look of deep morti- fication. ' I think — I know that she likes you as a friend; indeed, she told you so herself five minutes ago. But if there is any deeper feel- ing, she herself is not conscious of it.' ' That is true. I felt myself that she could not have spoken -y^dth such perfect ease, if she had given me the love for which I crave. But when she hears my sentiments ' 24-6 STILL WATEKS. Ruth shook her lieacl_, and again advised delay. ' I might wait/ said Lord Edward, ' if you were to remain here ; but since you are going abroad for months, perhaps for years, I feel that it is better to know my fate at once. No one can see without admiring her.^ ' Isabers head will not be turned by mere admiration, of which she was the object just now; it is simply distasteful to her.^ ^ I know ; it was the absence of self-con- sciousness and personal vanity which first at- tracted me, so different from others I have known. But that may not prevent her affec- tions being engaged by another more fortunate than I, if we part without an explanation. In short, I cannot bear suspense.' And all Ruth's prudent warnings were of no avail. Lord Edward was as ardent, possibly a more unreasonable lover, than if he had been ten years younger. Ruth could only repeat her wishes for his success, and listen to his animated praises of Isabel's graces, both of mind and person. STILL WATEES. 247 CHAPTER XVIII. So selten ist es, dass die Menschen finden Was ihnen doch bestimmt gewesen schieu, So selten, dass sie das erhalten, was Auch einmal die begliickte Hand ergriff ! Es reisst sich los, was wir begierig fassten. Es giebt ein Gliick, allein wir kennen's niclit : Wir kennen's wobl, und wissen's nicht zu scliatzen, Goethe. ''/^H, Ruth/ said Isabel, opening the door ^^ of her sister's room in haste, and care- fully closing it before she finished her sentence, — ' Oh, Ruth ! do you know what Lord Edward has done V ' He told me yesterday what he was going to do,' said Ruth. ^ It was only yesterday that I had the faintest suspicion, and then I thought it must be fancy/ ^ But though I know what Lord Edward was to ask, Isabel, I have not heard your answer.' ' No, thank you, of course.' ' And why of course ?' said Ruth, gently. 248 STILL WATERS. ^ Oh, Kutli ! as if I could ever love again V Ruth was not disposed to argue the propriety of first and only love, and she merely said — 'I am sorry for Lord Edward/ ' So am I. When he began, it made me so hot and uncomfortable, that I nearly asked him to stop, for fear I should say ' Yes^ by mistake. I admired so much the way he bore his disap- pointment about Clara, thinking that he con- quered his love only because he thought it right, and then we never can forget the way he nursed David. So that, altogether, I liked him exceedingly, and I hoped that we should always be friends.^ Admiration, gratitude, and friendship ; since Isabel acknowledged these sentiments, Ruth regretted more than ever that Lord Edward^s precipitation should have prevented their ripen- ing into love. ' Such friendship is not quite compatible with youth and beauty,' she observed. 'But you do not think that I trifled with him,' said Isabel, anxiously. ' Lord Edward himself said that I gave him no encourage- ment.' ' No ; I did not give him any hope,' said Ruth, ' and he was not sanguine of success.' STILL TVATERS. 249 ' I hope that he will not mind much/ said Isabel J ^ only think how long, and how hope- lessly, he loved Clara/ ' I am afraid/ replied her sister, ' that only proves of what enduring sentiments he is capable/ ^ I am glad you do not plead his cause, how- ever,^ said Isabel, after a pause; 'it would be easy to say that he is more worthy than — than Captain Gascoigne ; I do not mean to deny it. But that does not make it less impossible ever to think of another in the same way/ ' I understand what you mean, dear,^ said Ruth, tenderly ; ' but it is only painful and harassing to rake up the past/ ' And, besides,^ continued Isabel, ' I would not leave David, even if I liked him better. He is as little likely to forget as I am, and we have agreed to live for each other. But you look as if you did not believe me.^ 'I do not mean to be incredulous,^ said Ruth, suppressing the smile which had called forth the accusation, ' but you must remember that David is not four-and-twenty ; so do not think his inconstancy quite unparalleled if he falls in and out of love again before the year goes round.^ 250 STILL WATERS. David himself, when he heard of the pro- posal, was not disposed to accept such a sacrifice from sisterly affection. He liked the idea of the marriage, and tried to persuade Isabel that she had not known her own mind. And when she persisted in her decision, he deplored her taste, observing, that he always thought Lynmere a much finer fellow than the Captain. Lord Edward returned to his parliamentary duties on the same day, and this flying visit served as a matter of speculation in Holmdale. AYith habitual courtesy, he had left a card on Miss Perrott, and she considered that the attention entitled her to ascertain the truth ; so she set forth next morning to call in Bean- street, and she found Ruth alone, which was in favour of her researches. ' So Lord Edward is gone again,^ she said ; 'I was quite disappointed to miss him when he called yesterday morning ; and then I met the Doctor, who said that I should be sure to see him again, as he was to be here for some days.^ ^ He did not tell us how long he was to stay,^ said Ruth ; ^ and Parliament is still sit- ting.' STILL WATERS. 2^1 ^ Tlien perhaps lie is coming back again T Ruth said that she believed not. '^ People do say/ continued Miss Perrott, ^ that he had some object in this second visit. He has seen more of Isabel^, otherwise I should be inclined to think that it was you_, for you are much better suited to him.^ ^ You have become an inveterate match- maker. Miss Perrott/ said Ruth, with a smile. ^ Well, my dear, I don^t deny that people like you or I may be very happy in single life ; but it is a different kind of happiness, and I don^t think it would suit Isabel. I should be really provoked to think that she has thrown over Lord Edward for the sake of that worth- less Captain Gascoigne; and, indeed, it would not be quite right, now that he is fairly mar- ried to some one else.' ' Isabel has time enough before her,' said Ruth ; ' and at present she is quite satisfied in having David to live for and to love.' ' That is all very well,' said Miss Perrott, with a knowing shake of the head ; ' but young people will look for something else.' '^ But we need not look for them,' said Ruth. ^ Do you know that you have not asked after David?' 252 STILL WATERS. ^Because I heard all about him from Mr. Ball on my way here. He says that he is going on charmingly, and will be quite able to move in three or four weeks. I could not help be- moaning your departure with the Doctor the other day; we agreed that we should miss you sadly; but it is hardest on me, for you see so little of him now. And you will find some gayer place to settle in, and never come back to your old home and friends.' ' I do not expect to like any other place so well/ said Ruth. The words had scarcely passed her lips when Dr. Berkeley entered the room. He was, as INIiss Perrott observed, an unwonted visitor, and there was now so much constraint in their intercourse that the presence of a third person was a relief both to him and Buth. But as her rheumatism did not permit Miss Perrott to be out after three o'clock, she soon took leave, and they were left together. ^ You were talking of leaving Holmdale when I came in,' said Dr. Berkeley. ' Yes ; we begin to feel unsettled now. We have bought a Murray and a map, and Isabel pores over them all day.' ^ And you are really sorry to go ?' STILL WATERS. 253 ' Yes/ Rutli answered^ in an unsteady voice ; ' tlie otlier two say that it shows great want of enterprise^ and I mean to enjoy seeing the world as much as I can. But I have suiFered too much in this place to leave it willingly; it is almost like parting with mamma over again/ ' Yet when the parting is over you may find life less bm'densome. I know/ Dr. Berkeley added, nervously, ^how much I have added to your cares here.' *■ But by my fault/ said Ruth ; ' and for that I shall reproach myself as much when I am far away as I do now.' ^ You need not do so. When you are gone, I shall soon learn to think of you as you wish, and we may be friends once more. You will let me write to you sometimes to tell you the Holmdale news, and also if I have any tidings of Jasper.' Buth's thanks were too heartfelt to be spoken, and she started another subject — ^ Did Lord Edward confide to you the cause of his departure ? I tried to bafile Miss Per- rott's curiosity ; but you have a right to know, in vii'tue of your guardianship.' ^ He said something not very coherent, from :^H STILL TVATEES. which I concluded that Isabel had refused him/ ' Yes : it was his own fault for asking her too soon. If he had only waited.' ' Perhaps if he will ask again it may come to the same thing,' said the Doctor, a Httle diyly. Ruth smiled, and said that she had not the assurance to ask him to come to !Malta on Mhat miiiht be onlv a bootless errand. STILL WATEES. 255 CHAPTER XIX. days and hours, your work is this, To hold me from my proper place, A little while from his embrace, For fuller gain of after bliss ! That out of distance might ensue Desire of nearness doubly sweet ; And unto meeting, when we meet. Delight a hundredfold accrue. In Memoriam. TT was longer than Mr. Ball had anticipated -*- before David's strength was so far restored as to admit of their leaving Holmdale. On May-day their departure took place; and though Isabel had anticipated the time with impati- ence^ she found the process of leave-taking so little exhilarating^ that she broke down alto- gether when the moment came for shaking hands with Sally ; and she threw herself back in the carriage which was to convey them to the station^ in order to indulge in a hearty fit of crying. Ptuth^ on the contrary^ sat forward^ pale and tearless^ that she might look her last 255 STILL WATERS. at each familiar object^ and most longingly at the aUey of limes, now in aU their freshness, which shaded the church pathway. Although David could enter into his sister's feelings, his sigh was simply one of relief when they left the last house behind them. He was glad to turn over a page on which he could dwell with little satisfaction; and craving for change of thought and scene is almost inseparable from the variable and depressing nature of his illness. ' People all seemed so sorry to lose us,' Isabel said, when she had recovered her voice, ' that I felt I had been unfeeling in wishing to go ; and now I can only justify it by believing that they were only sorry on your account, Ruth. No one will mind getting rid of me.^ ^ At least,' said Ruth, ' you must take Sir John's farewell visit entirely as an attention to you. You were always his favourite.' ' Sir John's visit was almost more touching than any,^ said Isabel ; ' he looked so forlorn, as if he was at a loss what to do without Clara to admire. At one time he seemed to be on the point of suggesting that we should come and keep house for him, and I began to cast about for some answer more polite than ' Xo, thank vou, I would rather not.' ' STILL WATEES. 2^J ' I am sorry that I missed Sir Jolin/ said David. ' Did he say anything of — of the Gas- coignes ? It saves trouble/ he added, with a short laugh, ' when the bride does not change her name/ ' Yes ; he said that they were in Belgrave- square, and that he was going up to town next week to join them/ said Ruth. ' Perhaps/ continued David, ' you would like to call to-morrow, and see the bride in all her finery.-' ' Xo, thank you, David. As Isabel said just now, I had rather not.^ ^Did you see any one as we drove through the town, Ruth?^ Isabel asked. ' Only the Doctor.' ' Only V repeated David. ' I have some sus- picion that the Doctor takes our departure more to heart than any one.' ' I hope not/ said Ruth, quietly, as she evaded her brother's searching gaze. She had never confessed the true state of the case, but David had made his own observations. ^The Doctor has his own resoui'ces/ ob- served Isabel. ' He will learn a new language, or take greater pains than ever to bring on a promising pupil, so as to diive out vexing VOL. II. S 258 STILL WATERS. thoughts. I am most sorry for poor Miss Perrott. She has so few interests in life ' * That she devised one in tormenting us/ interposed David. ^ How she did worry me yesterday to wear flannel next the skin ! I disputed the necessity for half an hour; and when she had worked herself into a fever, and proved that I was throwing away my precious life, I quietly told her that I had worn it from my earliest infancy.^ ^Poor Miss Perrott/ said Isabel, checking an involuntary smile. ' It was a shame to tease her.^ ^ She will miss us,^ observed Ruth ; ' but her life is less objectless than it was. She takes an interest in her district, and carries on a jangling friendship with Mr. Mayne. And then there are the Dunns ^ ' There are the Dunns, as you observe,^ said David. ^ Isabel may well say, poor Miss Per- rott.^ And he turned the conversation to other matters. No part of the busy day they spent in Lon- don was occupied by a visit to Belgrave-square, and on the following morning they set out on their route for Dover and Ostend. It was still too early in the season for Switzerland and the STILL WATERS. 259 Tyrol, and they lingered for some days among the Belgian towns. IsabeFs enjoyment of their travels increased with every step they took ; all cares were cast aside, and her energy was as nntiring as her admiration. David also gained strength daily ; but fatigue and excitement did not suit Kuth so well. She looked fagged and languid^ secretly pining for the solitude and regularity of her former life ; and, on her account, it was decided that they should remain for a few days at Bonn. ^At any rate, we must have stopped for a night or two,^ said David, when they were locked up in the Salle d'Attente at Cologne. ^ As I opened my desk just now to exchange our good gold for that debased Prussian silver, I discovered the Doctor^s letter of introduction to his friend the German professor. He par- ticularly requested us to make acquaintance with his learned and unseen correspondent ; and then Ruth shall write and tell him how dirty his friend is, how hairy, and what is the length of his meerschaum.^ *■ He ought to ask us to dinner,^ said Isabel. ^ If we see a little of German life, it will repay us for the trouble of unpacking some presentable clothes.' s 3 26o STILL WATERS. ' I am glad that you are modest enougli to talk of seeing,^ said David. ' It is evident that your intercourse will go no further^ since you still have recourse to my voluble and nngram- matical French, which yon prophesied would be of no further use when we reached the Prussian frontier/ ^It is very mortifying/ rejoined Isabel, laughing. ' I speak on scientific principles, yet I can get no ansAver but that terrible Wie meinen Sie ? or, which is still more insulting, ' Speak English, and I shall understand.^ And if the natives originate a remark, I have not a glimmering consciousness of its meaning.^ ' If the natives were to act instead of speak- ing, it would be more to the purpose,^ said David. ' Unless that gentleman in the militarj^ cap will unlock the door, I shall be under the necessity of breaking it open with his head.^ ' My dear boy !^ said Ruth, in an admoni- tory tone, ^ he understands English.' ' He certainly does not,' retorted David, ' or he would not shut up a free and enlightened people in this stifling atmosphere.' They were released in due time, and per- mitted to take their places in the train for Bonn. Ruth was glad that the flat and imin- STILL WATEES. 26 1 teresting country tlirougli T\'liicli they passed entitled lier to lean back in her corner of the carriage with closed eyes ; and while her brother and sister still talked in undertones, and thought she slept^ her thoughts were free to wander back to her forsaken home, with all its associations of joy and grief. They were all well pleased with Bonn. Isabel declared, as she had repeated at every successive stage of their journey, that the church with its five tall towers, and the Rhine with its seven hills, were the most perfect things they had seen yet, and more perfect than anything which could be in store for them. She was charmed by the suggestion that they should drink tea in the arbour over- hanging the Rhine, at the foot of the garden attached to the Koniglicher Hof ; and she was inspired with quotations in praise of Vater Rhein, poured forth in the pretty correct German which had proved so useless for the purposes of communication, until she was checked in full career by a reminiscence from David of the earwigs which fell into ^Irs. Nickleby's tea in the arbour, ' and kicked dreadfully.' It was a lovely evening; not warm, but bright 262 STILL WATERS. and stillj and after tea they sauntered tlirough the town, speculating which was the house of the Doctor^s German professor ; and then they paced the chestnut avenue, and watched the fireflies glancing through the grass, long after Ruth had decreed that it was imprudent for David to stay out so late. ^And now,' said Isabel, when they met at breakfast next morning, ' we ought to take advantage of the fine day, and go up the Drachenfels before dinner.' Her companions were amused by her energy, but not inclined to imitate it. Ruth had let- ters to write, and David declared that he felt more inclined for society than scenery — at all events, he would not go until he had taken counsel of the German professor concerning the merits of Konigswinter asses. So Isabel, after railing at their want of enterprise, left the one to her letters, the other to Galignani, and she set forth alone to explore the town. She soon returned, however, to make another effort to rouse her brother, declaring that she did not like to walk without him; foreigners were so civil in general, but one man had stared disagreeably, and followed her a little way, almost as if he was going to speak to her. STILL WATERS. 263 ' One of the Burschen V David asked. '^ Oh no ; at least, I think he was too old. He was a tall man, with moustaches — a foreigner, of course.^ ' Of v-^ourse,^ repeated David ; ' notwithstand- ing what you said just now of the civility of foreigners, I am certain that no Englishman would be so ill-bred. It is astonishing how patriotic I become on this side of the water. We will sally forth together in search of the Professor ; and if we meet the fellow again, I have German enough to say, ' Wie meinen Sie ?' ' They saw no more of him, however, and Isabel had altogether forgotten the annoyance by the time they returned. ^ Well, Ruth,^ she said, in such haste to tell her adventures that she threw down her bonnet in the headlong fashion on which Jasper used to animadvert in days gone by — ^ Well, Ruth, we found Herr Stahl. We only meant to leave the letter, but the maid begged us to walk in ; and so we did. He is a quaint, little old man, with no hair on his face, and so little on his head that he wears a black velvet skull- cap. David can tell you more about him than I can, for I was talking to his wife, who is 264 STILL WATERS. much younger^ and speaks tlie prettiest broken English. They asked ns to a Kaffeetrinken in their garden at four o'clock, and so Tve are to go/ ^Why^ I thought Tve were engaged to the Siehengebirge/ said Ruth. ' They will not run away_, as David says ; and it would be a pity to miss such an oppor- tunity of seeing German life. Now, remember, Ruthie, how often you have told me not to be morose on occasion of a Holmdale tea-drinking.' Ruth did remember it; and she suffered Isabel to unpack their black silk gowns, as well as the small cap of choice old lace, which had been Miss Perrott's parting gift. ' If you imagine that it gives you the air of a chaperon, you are much mistaken,' said Isabel ; 'it is so becoming that you will only get the credit of a successful piece of coxcombry.' David was equally well pleased ; he declared that he had never been worthy of his sisters' dark eyes, and clear, olive complexions, until he came into this land of fair-haired Germans ; and he was really not ashamed to present them as specimens of his countrywomen. Isabel was inclined to wish herself on the Drachenfels, when they were ushered into the best parlour STILL \YATERS. 265 of the Professor's house^ instead of the cheerful sitting-room in which their visit had been paid. An air of constraint pervaded the white paint and gilding_, the mirrors and marble-topped tables ; and the guests^ who were ladies for the most part, conversed with each other in a low^ guttural murmur, which was wholly unintelli- gible to her ear. But their hostess came for- ward to greet the strangers in pleasant_, idiomatic English, and introduced the wearer of a Prus- sian uniform to ' his brother Hauptman/ though David laughingly disclaimed any such equality of rank. *" And_, besides,' continued the Frau Profes- sorin, ' it rejoices me to have here one of your own countrymen ; he is even now in the garden with Karlj but for this surprise have I not pre- pared him. He is so what we in our tongue cdWfremdj verschlossen.' ' And we, resented/ said Ruth, with a smile ; ' I am afraid that it is an Eno^lish failino:.' ^ But he is not like an Englishman,' said Madame Stahl; '^he speaks his own tongue even so badly as I myself; but his German is vortrefflich, and he is full of learning, although so young. He is even now made Professor at Heidelberg, by means of my husband,, with 266 STILL WATERS. ■whom he has studied_, and who Hkes him well ; but for me, I know him not at all. He speaks seldom, and lives much to himself; and I for- bade Karl to tell him that it was a Kaffee- trinken, lest he should excuse himself from coming/ ^ And what is his name V Isabel asked, with eager interest ; for the instinct of romance was aroused by this description. ^ His real name I know not, but he pleases to be called Herr Kleinod ; though he makes no secret of his nation, and attends ever your church. With many he passes for a German.^ The solid, fresh -coloured maid announced that coffee was served ; and the guests obeyed the summons with alacrity, glad to exchange the room, with its closed windows, for the cool freshness of the garden. As usual at these gatherings, there was a succession of small, green tallies and chairs set out, so that the party was broken into sets, each sipping coffee, and enjoying life after their own fashion, with- out paying much attention to their neighbours. Isabel looked anxiously round in search of the two professors ; but they were not to be seen, so she accepted her brother's invitation to join him and the young officer, while Ruth sat be- STILL WATERS. 267 side tlieir hostess, who was still more charmed with her gentle gravity than she had been with the greater animation of her brother and sister. But the duties of hospitality imposed too many claims upon her to leave more than a divided attention for Ruth, who was, on her part, well pleased to sit silent and obseiTe the scene be- fore her. ' Ah \' the Frau Professorin presently ex- claimed ; ' I see there Karl, and with him your countryman. I will bring him to you.^ She rose accordingly; and Ruth watched her progress with interest, in order to discover which was this mysterious Herr Kleinod. ^Mien Madame Stahl addressed herself to two per- sons, coming down one of the alleys of cropped acacia, it was easy to distinguish the Professor by IsabePs description, in the small, withered man, whose scanty white hairs were sui'mounted by a velvet cap. His companion was a young and powerful man, whose dress and air, the turn of his moustaches, and his short hair, might have justified any one in regarding him as a native of Germany; and, indeed, Ruth could scarcely believe that the courteous gesture with which he took off his hat, and remained for a moment uncovered, when Madame Stahl 268 STILL WATEES. addressed him^ could have been acquired by a foreigner^ tbe action was so distinctly national. There was a brief colloquy; and Madame Stahl returned_, laughing. ^ He will not come ; he says he dare not encounter such a crowd; and so you must be Mahomet_, ]\Iiss Lennox^ and even come to the mountain.' E-uth_, half-unwillingly, rose to comply with the request ; but the stranger did not await her approach. For a moment he stood irre- solute; and then a flush_, which was apparent even through bis bronzed and sunburnt com- plexion, overspread his face_, while he turned hastily away, and retraced his steps up the alley. 'So ist es immer !^ ejaculated the elder Professor_, as he proceeded to apologize for the discourtesy of his friend. With him, he as- sured E,uth, no man was more agreeable, but Herr Kleinod ever drew back from intercourse with his own countrymen. Isabel had been much amused by the inci- dent ; and she detained her sister for a moment, when she was about to return to her seat. ' After all, Ruth,' she said, ' I believe that we have not missed much. The man is certainly STILL WATERS. 269 a great bear_, for lie is the same who stared so disagreeably this morning/ '^ I must go back to ^ladame Stahl^ dear/ said Ruthj disengaging herself from her sister's grasp. In truth her limbs trembled_, and her pulses throbbed so much that she was unable to standi and yet she dared not ask herself the cause of her agitation. The idea was too strange^ wild^ and incredible_, to be entertained for an instant. 270 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER XX. Be not amazed at life. 'Tis still The mode of God with His elect, Their hopes exactly to fulfil In times and ways they least expect. The Angel in the House. COFFEE and conversation came to an end togetlier_, and David and his sisters took leave of the Stahls^ and set out for their hotel. But the entrance to the Alte Zoll_, the terrace overhanging the Rhine^ looked attractive^ and they turned in there^ to watch the sunset^ and to talk over the incidents of the afternoon. There they remained until David^ chilly as usual, proclaimed the necessity of a brisk walk ; and as Ruth was too tired to move_, she was left sitting on one of the benches a little re- tired from the broad walk, while her brother and sister went off together. She could still see the rich purple colour of the Siebengebirge, their jagged outline cutting sharp against the evening sky, and through the trees she caught a glimpse of the broad and rushing stream ; STILL WATEES. 271 but thougli these things were ob\dous to the outward senses, her thoughts were far away. And while she sat thus, she was startled by a voice, which, though familiar, seemed more allied with her dreams than with the scene before her. 'Then you do not, or will not know me?' Ruth looked up, and saw the same person who had shunned an introduction so shortly before, standing before her. What had that tall, whiskered man, with well-formed fea- tures and a frame so remarkable for muscular strength, in common with the boyish figm^e still fresh in her recollection ? She knew not ; rather she knew too well, not daring to ac- knowledge the truth to herself, since his look, his accent, his very tones, were changed. She did not speak, but stood up, trembling. ' Speak, Ruth, do you know me V He called her by name ! It was, it must be, Jasper ! Yet, by a strange impulse, Ruth turned from him, and advanced a few paces, so as to place her hands upon the balustrade, un- conscious that she was followed, until Jasper spoke again. ^ Perhaps, Ruth, you would have been better pleased to pass unrecognised ; and so I might 2/2 STILL WATERS. have escaped tliis miserable consciousness of being considered unworthy of one word of welcome fi;om those I have so yearned to see/ Euth felt that the reproach was just. In acting over this scene in imagination_, as she had often done, she had schooled herself to be composed and guarded ; but the event over- threw all her calculations. An icy barrier of constraint seemed to have sprung up between them^ and she could not show, she could not, at that moment, even feel, the deep and absorb- ing interest which had never flagged in all the foregoing years of mysterious estrangement. She looked up once more, and said, faintly — ' At first, I did not know you.^ ' Nor I you ; Isabel is more like what you were, and I almost spoke to her this morning.^ ' Isabel and David will be so glad.' ' Even though you, Ruth, are indifferent ? ^ly heart fails when I think of encountering another such chilling greeting. It were better to be gone, and to leave you to forget that you have ever seen me.' ^ Forgive me,' whispered Ruth. ^ It is all so new and so strange. Yet do not say that I am indifferent.' ' Then you are not ashamed to speak to me ?' STILL WATERS. 273 '' Oli^ Jasper !^ Aud that answer would have been sufficient, even if Ruth had not sHpped her hand within his, and suffered him to lead her back to the bench, where they might sit and talk, secure from observation. On both sides there was much to tell ; but Jasper's own account of himself may be given in fewer words. In leaving Holmdale^ he had yielded to a blind and irresistible impulse to escape from infamy, aware that he could only have redeemed his own honour by implicating his father. And probably a shrinking dread of any further intercourse with that father was another powerful incentive to flight. He made his way to Liverpool with the inten- tion of securing a berth in some outward- bound vessel; and in order to raise money for this purpose, by the sale of his watch, he entered a jeweller's shop. While there, an apparently accidental circumstance wholly al- tered his destination. The master of the shop was a German, whose knowledge of English was so imperfect that Jasper found it easier to drive a bargain with him in his own tongue. He had a turn for languages, and spoke Ger- man with ease and correctness; but before the negotiation for the sale of his watch had made VOL. II. T 2 74 STILL WATERS. mucli progress^ lie was surprised by an offer of a very different nature. The jeweller had been directed to engage a tutor for the son of a cer- tain Baron von Orsbach^ residing in the neigh- bourhood of Bonn ; and he was so prepossessed in Jasper^s favour that he proposed that he should himself accept the situation. Friendless and destitute as he was^ Jasper did not hesitate to close with the offer ; much to his surprise, his own account of himself was accepted with- out demur ; and before the interest excited by his mysterious disappearance had subsided in Holmdale, he was installed in the swampy Schloss von Orsbach, with its suites of unfur- nished rooms, its ancestral frogs and poplars. The years of dependence which followed had been animated by the one absorbing object of freeing himself from the burden of debt and dishonour which crushed his spirit. That ob- ject was only accomplished at the cost of in- cessant toil, since he applied himself to every species of literary drudgery which might eke out the sum he was able to lay aside out of his scanty salary. But the labour had been bracing rather than exhausting, and had stimulated the powers of mind which Dr. Berkeley had always asserted were only lying dormant, and STILL TVATERS. 275 must sooner or later achieve distiuction. The extraordinary mastery of the German language acquired by a foreigner had first attracted Pro- fessor Stahl to the young Englishman, and they had ever since been fast friends. ^ He determined to make a German of me/ continued Jasper, ^in which you will say that he has succeeded tolerably well. He directed all my studies, made me go through the Uni- versity course here, and then obtained this professorship for me at Heidelberg. I ceased to be bear-leader to the young Otto von Ors- bach as soon as the 200/. was transmitted to Holmdale, and gave myself up to the luxury of learning, though now, it seems, the days of tuition ai'e to begin once more. You see how much I owe to Stahl ; but I can tell you what has proved a closer bond than gratitude — his correspondence with ^ eiri gelehrter Herr, Berkeley genannt.' Imagine how my heart leaped when I first heard the name ; and from that time I saw all the Doctoi^s letters, though they only awakened an unsatisfied yearning for news of you all. How I have chafed and fretted, and then laughed at my own folly for seeking your name or David^s among a list of old Greek manuscripts.-' T 2 276 STILL WATEES. ^ It was your own fault/ Ptutli answered. ' Oil, Jasper, it was cruel to let all those years go by wdtliout one sign of life/ ^ It was better so/ said lie_, gloomily. ' I wished that you should think me dead, for then I knew that you would judge me kindly. If, indeed, I had known what you have now told, I might have acted otherwise.^ For Ruth had already told him of his fa- ther's death, and of the full disclosure Avhich preceded it, while Jasper held his breath, and listened with shuddering interest. He was touched by the Doctor's anxiety to clear his name. ^ If I had imagined,' he said, *" that there was one living being to take an interest in me, or w^ho thought me other than a reprobate, I might have compelled myself to renew some intercourse; but, even now, no earthly power should induce me to return to Holmdale, though I like to hear all the familiar names once more. I want to hear of the Doctor ; is he aged T ' A little,' said Ruth. ^And seeing you reminds me of another absorbing interest of buried days. Are there changes at Dyne Court ? — or is Clara Gascoigne Clara Gascoigne still V STILL AYATERS. 277 The question was asked in a tone of nncon- cern_, which made Ruth^s heart bounds although she was ashamed of the momentary exultation. ' Yes ; but only because she has married her cousin^ Evelyn Gascoigne. T have not pained you by telling you so abruptly, Jasper V ' Not at all. I have a certain tenderness for the only romance my life is likely to know ; but it ended long ago, and was always visionary. There is nothing like hard head-work for driv- ing out vexing thoughts, and I am content to give myself up to student life without such a pretty and useless addition to my household goods as our friend the Professor has in Ma- dame Stahl, who always says the wrong thing at the wrong moment, and consults her hus- band concerning the shades of Berlin wool in his smoking"Cap when we are in the midst of a scientific discussion.^ '^I dare say/ returned Ruth, with a smile, ' it is from a conscientious belief that it would be much better for you to unbend your mind by a little attention to the amenities of life.^ ' Very likely ; but she has only confirmed my determination to resist all such impertinent intrusion into my den at Heidelberg. And now let me hear of yourself, Ruth. You will 270 STILL WATERS. believe/ he added^ with one hasty glance at her mourning dress^ ^ that it is not forgetfulness which sealed my lips, when I refrained from asking after one.^ ' Thank you/ said Ruth, as her lip quivered in the attempt to smile. ' I felt that you must know how it was. It is at such times that her loss comes home, for she would have entered into our present happiness. I like to believe that she is doing so even now.^ ^ So your home was broken up and you came abroad,^ said Jasper. ^ Or was it on account of your health T * On David^s account. He has been seriously ill, though now he gains ground so fast that you would scarcely think so/ ' No. He always looked delicate, and he is altogether less altered than the rest of us. For though Isabel has even surpassed her pro- mise of beauty, she gives me the impression of having suffered a good deal before her spirits were toned down. Though she did not seem unhappy either when I was watching you this evening.^ ^ Yet you are right,^ said Huth, ' in thinking that she has suffered enough to grow old before her time; and I cannot help regretting the STILL WATERS. 279 JOYOUS, lawless spirits wliicli used to offend your propriety in old times. If anything can rouse them again, it will be the instinct of bra\'ing your displeasure.^ ■ And you, Ruth/ continued Jasper, ^ are you not changed more than any of us ?^ ' Oh, no. You know that I was always quiet ; and I don^t grow more noisy with in- creasing years.^ It was quite dusk before David and Isabel returned; and they were beginning to apolo- gize for having left Ruth so long alone, play- fully disputing whose fault it was, before they discovered that she was not alone after all. And Isabel was still more perplexed when a tall figure rose up from the bench, and intro- duced himself in an accent which Madame Stahl was justified in considering more like that of a foreigner than an Englishman, as ^ the man who stared so disagreeably.^ The explanation soon followed ; and Jasper had no cause to complain, as in RutVs case, that it was received with indifierence. David almost shook off his hand in the eagerness of his satisfaction, while Isabel evinced her excite- ment by kissing Ruth, and asking if she was content at last. 2 bo STILL WATERS. Ruth was the first to remember that it was imprudent for David to linger in the night air^ and they repaired to the hotel ; nor was Jasper suffered to take leave of them at the door^ as he proposed to do. ' For you know/ said Isabel^ ' that I have not seen you yet, except in the character of a mysterious stranger, and I want to ascertain how much of your old self is left/ ^ Or, rather, how much of a new self is added,' said David. ^Now that I see what a great man Clinton has become, T am sadly mortified by my own smallness of stature.' Jasper followed them up-stairs, and Isabel called for candles, and held up one in order to make her inspection, which he endured with an air of dignified submission very amusing to the bystanders. ^ After all,' Isabel decided, ^ you are less changed than I fancied. The great difi'erence is, that your features have grown up to your forehead, and I should have known your mouth anywhere if you had not disguised it with such a moustache. How amused the Doctor will be to hear that you are a moustached pro- fessor, with a ring on your fore -finger.' Jasper looked down_, disconcerted by this STILL WATEES. 28 1 last proof of disloyalty to Eiiglisli customs^ which had not escaped Isabel's quick eyes. ' It is not my faiilt_, Isabel. The riog was Otto von Orsbach's parting present_, and it will only fit my forefinger.' ' I understand/ said Isabel^ laughing ; ' a seal of your c?e-naturalization. Yet^ after all, Jasper, England is not such a bad countr}^' ' It was only too good for me/ replied Jasper, in a tone which efiectually checked Isabel's inclination for raillery. His sensitive- ness to ridicule was, as she afterwards observed to David, a much stronger proof of his identity than the resemblance which she had attempted to trace to his former self. In truth, fiv^e years' estrangement in a foreign land, beginning at that most pliable age when the transition from youth to manhood was not fully made, had wrought a greater change in Jasper's outward habits and appear- ance than the lapse of time might seem to warrant ; but his disposition was still the same, the tone of his mind as high, his sense of honour only too morbidly quick. Noav that the apparently inseparable barrier between him and the home and companions of his boyhood was broken down, he threw himself back into 282 STILL WATERS. the past with eager interest, his accurate recol- lection of old acquaintance and familiar scenes proving that it was not indifference which had so long kept him silent. He stayed talking so late, that David took up his candle with a yawn as soon as he was gone, declaring that not even the wonders of this discovery should defraud him of his allowance of eight hours^ sleep. The sisters were left standing together at the open window. ' You are happy now, Ruth,' said Isabel, twining her arm round her. ' Happy and thankful, dear.' ^ It is very pleasant. I was infected by Clara's absurd idea of the gold-digger, and expected to see something quite uncivilized, if he ever did turn up. I can hardly now believe that he is a learned man and a professor, and but for the charms of Heidelberg, I should still be in favour of a cottage in the back- woods.' ' It is best as it is,' said Kuth. ' Jasper's mind must work on something, and manual labour would nqt have satisfied him.' Isabel was too prudent to reveal that she was not thinking only of Jasper. ' Yes j I remember how the Doctor used to STILL TVATERS. 28^ say that he Tvas the stuff of "^vhich philosophers Avere made, and he will rejoice in the fulfil- ment of his prediction. We must write to him at once^ Ruth ; and I hope that he will tell the stoiy to Lord Edward when they meet. He was so much interested in what he heard of Jasper when we brought David from York, and all Holmdale was ringing with the restitu- tion of the money.' As neither of the sisters saw any harm in match-making for the other, E.uth was grati- fied by this reminiscence of Lord Edward^ and by the blush which accompanied it. 284 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER XXI Hopes, and fears that kindle hope, An undistinguisliable throng ; And gentle wishes long subdued. Subdued and cherished long ! S. T. COLEEIDGE. T^HREE days afterwards, Jasper set out for -*- Heidelberg, in company with David and Lis sisters. No pleasanter resting-place could be devised, until the season for travelling in Switzerland had arrived ; and Jasper claimed E-uth's experience in household affairs to aid his first attempts at housekeeping. Isabel was irritated by her sister's literal interpretation of the request ; time after time she left them together, only to find them on their return, calculating the number of silver spoons, and the stock of house-linen required for a bachelor^s establishment. Although Jasper preferred Ruth's society to that of any other person, there was nothing lover-like in his manner, while, on her side, there was an additional shade of reserve, but no apparent embarrass- ment. STILL WATERS. 285 Isabel spent the greater part of the day on the Rhine, in the forepart of the steamer, with Jasper by her side, who was able to name every rock and castle, without reference to Murray or the panorama. Just as they were under the shadow of Ehrenbreitstein, however, Jasper forget his part of cicerone, and after answering Isabels expressions of admiration at random, he said abruptly — ^ I observed, Isabel, that Ruth coloured when David made that allusion to the Doctor at dinner, though he seemed to speak in jest/ ^ The Doctor was in earnest, however,^ said Isabel, rather dryly. ' Then there was love on his side ? It is strange — yet not strange — except that it should have failed to meet with a return ; for Ruth used to admire and rely upon him so much/ ' Yes, at the time you knew them together. But you were the cause of coolness and con- straint.^ ' I was V ' I mean,^ continued Isabel, desperately, for she was alarmed by the effect of words which had slipped out unawares, while she felt tliat she must go on since she had embarked in the subject ; ' I mean that Ruth could never quite 285 STILL WATERS. forgive him for not sharing her confidence in your nnblemished honour. You know that appearances were against you/ 'You may well say so/ answered Jasper. ' And Ruth trusted me through all ? She never told me.^ ' Then I am sorry that you should know it through me ; for, though I do not always un- derstand her reserve, I always feel that it is sacred.^ ' Ruth used not to be reserved with me/ said Jasper. ' Perhaps not ; but you must accept that result of your long and selfish neglect ; for it was selfish to be silent through all these years, as if the memory of your close friendship had been blotted out. You know not, and are not worthy to know, all the suffering you caused her.^ Isabel spoke with flushed cheeks and a faltering voice, and the colour also rushed into Jasper's face. But he only replied by the German monosyllable ' So I' which may con- vey so much or so little meaning ; and then he advised their return to the other end of the vessel, since they were only in the way of the knot of people preparing to disembark at Coblenz. STILL WATERS. 287 Isabel looked anxiously for some change in his manner to Ruth, but none was apparent, except that he spoke to her rather less than before. Isabel was bitterly, unreasonably in- dignant, and only induced to curb her resent- ment by perceiving that Euth was pained by her flighty and inconsequent manner. She did not feel relieved until they reached Mainz, where they were to pass the night. She set out with David to explore the town, which gave her an opportunity of telling him that Jasper was totally, irretrievably ruined; she had tried to like him, but now she wps con- vinced that he was nothing but a selfish, boorish, beer-drinking German. ' You ought to have come to that conclusion a little sooner,^ said David, laughing ; ' I dis- covered that you two were at issue this after- noon ; and if your tempers are so incompatible, we should not have allowed the Stahls to write and engage the lodgings for us at the Castle. Jasper was always unlike other people, but I still think him a very good fellow ; and if there is any crime in drinking beer, I must refute the calumny as far as he is concerned, since I can testify that he has drunk nothing but sour wine since we met.' 288 STILL WATERS. ' I do not mean that he is all that at pre- sent/ said Isabel^ a little ashamed of her ve- hemence ; ^ but it is what he will inevitably become if he is to live only for himself, his com- fortSj and his books — a regular old Hagestoltz, in short/ ^ Which is German for a bachelor, is it not ? So there is a melancholy prospect for us/ ' Not at all ; we are to live for each other, and be bright exceptions to the rule. How- ever, you think me unreasonable; so I will forgive Jasper this time, and try to understand him better — even though a standing feud might make our life in the old Castle all the more real and pleasant/ In accordance with this good resolution, she treated Jasper with greater civility next morn- ing, and before reaching Heidelberg they had returned to their former relations — amicable, but rather defensive. Two days after this, Kuth stood beside Jasper, on the broad Altan overhanging the Neckar and the town of Heidelberg, to watch the yellow light of sunset. The steepness of the ascent to the Castle had obliged her to accept the assistance wdiich in general she de- clined, and her hand still rested on his arm. STILL WATERS. 289 when Jasper spoke_, in tlie low, measured tone which, veils emotion — ^ I hardly dare thank you, Ruth^ and yet I cannot be silent, for having maintained my innocence in the face of detraction ; since you knew no more than others/ ^ I felt the truth. But who told you, Jas- per V ^ Isabel ; though she said truly that I was unworthy to know it. To her I would not justify myself — to you I cannot; I only seek forgiveness/ ^ For what ? Oh, Jasper, why will you pain me so much V * Forgive me all the sorrow I have caused you, then and now. You cannot, you must not take any further interest in one so unwor- thy of you. Forget that you have ever known me ; leave me to my cheerless and solitary fate.^ And, with an impatient gesture, Jasper shook off the little hand which trembled on his arm. But Buth placed it there again^ and said, softly — ^ I cannot forget, Jasper .•' ^ You cannot ! Do you remember what I am — a dishonoured name my sole inheritance ; VOL. II. u 290 STILL WATERS. a morose and gloomy temper my sole endow- ment V ' I know what yon are/ answered Ruth ; ' the same Jasper who cared for me as a friend or a brother in early days — who, as a brother, cares for me still/ ^ Not so/ said Jasper, now clasping the hand which he had flung from him a moment before ; ' the memory of those early days has not faded — the image of that loving and gentle sister was enshrined in my inmost heart, dear as my own life, yet not so dear as the sweet reality. Speak to me, Ruth ; I do not plead my cause ; I dare not ask you to be mine ; you know what I am.^ ' I know,' said Ruth. And that answer was sufficient. It drew down Jasper's lips to imprint the kiss of be- trothal on her brow ; heroism and self-sacrifice were forgotten — all but the bond, stronger than death, which linked that loving form to his side. AYith perfect sincerity, Isabel declared that this ^ selfish, boorish, beer-drinking German' was the brother-in-law whom of all others she would have chosen ; and she was gratified by the conviction that her good offices had been STILL WATERS. 29 1 needed to bring the affair to a liappy conclu- sion. ^ Now^ do tell me/ she said^ one evening, not long before the wedding-day; ^were you not waiting for that friendly shove to fall in love with Ruth V ^ You never were more mistaken/ replied Jasper^ briefly. ' That is a polite contradiction ! However, perhaps I put the question a little too strongly. But^ at least^. you will allow that I set the stone rolling.^ * I will allow anything you please, if you will leave me in peace/ said Jasper; and Isabel laughed and took the hint. The lovers were left in possession of the sitting-room, while she went to join Dand, who was smoking among the ruins, gi'eeting him with the remark that, though she thoroughly liked Jasper, she could not help wishing that his manner was less uncouth. But real courtesy was a rare gift in these days. Had one who certainly pos- sessed the gift in full measure any place in her thoughts ? u 2 292 STILL WATERS. CHAPTER XXIT. The laws of marriage, character' d In gold. Upon the blanched tablets of her heart ; A love still burning upward, giving light To read those laws ; an accent very low. In blandishment, but a most silver flow Of subtle-paced counsel in distress. Eight to the heart and brain, though undescried. Winning its way with extreme gentleness Through all the outworks of suspicious pride. Tennyson. <TS Mrs. Clinton at liome?' J- The English question, the English tone, was never more welcome; for Mrs. Clinton re- cognised the voice at once, and ran out into the trellised porch to answer for herself. In her black silk dress and lace cap, she looked as matronly as if she had been married for years, instead of months. The expression of staid and qniet happiness was scarcely bridal, but it was very characteristic. The oval outline of her face and its returning colour, showed that youth and health were renewed together. ^ Oh, Lord Edward ! I am so glad to see you.' STILL WATERS. 293 ' And I am deliglited to find you at liome^ and in such a pretty home. I had not time to write and announce my movements/ Lord Edward was one of those men who never have time to write. ' I did not expect to hear again/ said Ruth, '^ after I had written that you would always find a spare room/ ^ And are you alone V ' My husband is in lecture. He will be here presently/ said Ruth, with a slight blush; for she was but a two months^ bride, after all. Then, as Lord Edward still looked dissatisfied, she suddenly recollected that Jasper was not the object of this inquiry. ^ We expect David and my sister either to-night or to-morrow morning. They have had a prosperous tour, and Isabel writes that David is as strong as he ever was. He has only come back to escort Isabel, before going ofi" to [Malta.' * And Miss Lennox will remain with you V 'Yes.' Ruth thought that Lord Edward would have ample opportunity for talking of and to Isabel, in the course of his visit, and she was impatient for English news. ' You wrote from Holmdale, Lord Edward V ' Yes. I went there for a few days after the 294 STILL WATEES. House was prorogued^ and I come here^ charged with more expressions of good-will than I can remember, from all your friends. The Doctor was particularly flourishing/ ' I hoped so/ said Ruth ; ' he is such an excellent correspondent — gossip for me, and scholarship for Jasper. We can hardly keep up with him.' ' And Miss Perrott's rheumatism was less obtrusive than usual/ continued Lord Edward, a little dryly, for he was infected by Isabel's wicked inclination to make light of that lady's infirmities. When Ruth's appetite for Holmdale news was satisfied, she only travelled as far as Dyne Court. ' Tell me about the Gascoignes/ she said. ' I have heard nothing of them since we left, or hardly anything. My only letter from Clara was not satisfactory.' ' I am afraid there is nothing satisfactory to tell,' said Lord Edward, gravely. 'Mrs. Gas- coigne is very gay; but it is a gaiety which reminds me of the ' crackling of thorns.' Even when she smiles and talks most, her harassed, careworn expression shows how far she is from true happiness. I seldom see her with her STILL WATERS. 295 hiisband^ and then his indifference is more openly manifested than even the superficial morality of good breeding demands/ ' Poor Clara '/ said E-uth^ sadly ; ^ you must not be too hard on her. However little I can defend her conduct to others^ she really cared for Captain Gascoigne^ and there was no trifling on her side/ *■ If she cares for him still, she conceals it skilfully/ said Lord Edward ; ' that flighty, co- quettish manner was objectionable enough before, but it is ten times worse in a young wife/ ' Still you say she looks unhappy/ Ruth urged, ^ and that manner must be assumed to hide care, not really careless/ Lord Edward only shook his head, but he did not admire Ruth the less for her eagerness to plead the cause of one with whom she had so little in common. And when Jasper came in, it was clear that practically she knew very well what a bride^s manner ought to be, — so much gentleness and repose, and her readiness to anticipate the slightest wish of her husband or her guests, were just what he liked, what he could picture to himself in Isabel, forgetting at the moment that the sisters were as unlike as it is possible for sisters to be. 29«5 STILL WATERS. Jasper looked proud and happy; tlie false shame which had so long depressed him Avas fast disappearing, and he conld talk of Holm- dale matters_, and of his former life there, with an ease which Ruth had never expected him to attain, so that she began to hope that his reso- lution never to revisit England might in time be overcome. Altogether the evening passed pleasantly away, though Lord Edward echoed in silence the wonder expressed by Ruth, whe- ther the travellers would arrive in time for supper. They did arrive in time for supper, a little wayworn, not a little sunburnt, yet not so much so as to mar IsabeFs beauty. ' I am sorry, dear,^ Ruth said, apologetically, as she went up-stairs with her sister — ' I am sorry that Lord Edward has come in for the first night of your arrival. I would have put him off, if he had given me notice.^ ' Oh, it does not signify,^ said Isabel, hur- riedly ; yet her fluttering heart told her that it signified a good deal. She was not merely gratified by the enduring attachment which had urged him to try his fate once more, and his agitated greeting assured her that he had come for no other purpose; a deeper emotion had STILL WATERS. 297 thrilled throiigli her frame as she placed her hand in his_, not quite new nor strange^ for she had felt it once before. Yet she did not think of that now ; and the theory of first and only love was cast aside and forgotten, or only so far remem- bered as to give consistency to the belief that she had never truly loved before. Need we say more? David was deprived of the promised companion of his solitary old age; but he bore the loss with so much equanimity, that we may hope that he will in due time console himself in like manner. And as Isabel was to have made her home with Ruth and Jasper, until he retired fr'om the army as full colonel, Ruth was more imraediately affected by the success of Lord Edward^s suit; however, she was too good a sister to be inconsolable. ' We shall miss her,^ she observed to Jasper ; ' but they will be very happy. Even in height and good looks they are exactly suited to each other; his Vandyke face and high-breeding go so well with her queen-like beauty. And, then, as poor Clara once said, ^ Lady Edward is such a pretty title.^ ' THE END. 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